A/K/A

An occasionally bizarre tale from Robson (Another Mother, 1995, etc.), this about two lesbians who have assumed so many personal and professional disguises that they've forgotten who they really are. Margaret Smyth and BJ meet each other outside a professor's office but, blinded by defensiveness and fear, find it difficult to explore the sparks of sympathy between them. Margaret is on the verge of getting her law degree; by doing so, she hopes to transcend a traumatic past in foster homes, forget the early death of her lover, Dominique, and escape a complicated secret life as a lesbian prostitute. In that still on-going life, she assumes a different persona for each of her clients, managing to become whatever is required of her. For the unhappily married Ann-Marie, she provides sexual fulfillment; for unattractive Patty, she's a bleached-blond, big-breasted ``gorgeous'' date her mean-spirited cousin can lust after at his wedding; she's also a cover for disturbed Jeanine, a heterosexual woman molested as a child who now masquerades as a lesbian to keep her job with a gay organization. BJ's story is somewhat more conventional: She's a soap opera star who has many lesbian viewers but whose attempt to out herself in a fan magazine has been suppressed by the editors. BJ lives with her lover, Lenore, with whom she's raised Lenore's son, Malcolm. But Lenore, whose father married three women named Lenore and gave the name to all of his daughters, has her own serious grapplings with identity, actually suffering from bouts of insanity; when Malcolm's sperm donor shows up, Lenore runs off with him, leaving BJ worried about whether she'll be able to keep custody of Malcolm. Both BJ and Margaret yearn for solidity and connection, but their outward differences keep them apart through much of the story, even as their lives inch closer to crisis. A potentially intriguing meditation on lesbian identity, but episodic and too gratuitously weird to have much impact.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15469-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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