The story of a man who went looking for America and found that it’s still there after all.

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A young man goes west to find himself and discovers more than he imagined.

It’s a good thing that the book’s unnamed narrator retains such a unique, sincere and persuasive voice because his adventures, well-written as they are, are lifted straight out of a Bob Seger song. At least it’s a good one, “Against the Wind,” maybe crafted for an audience of post-modern millennials aching for a bona-fide experience. Something snaps in our 28-year-old hero when he catches his fiancée cheating on him. He dumps his white-collar job, mounts his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and hits the road to reinvent himself as a hard-drinking, Walt Whitman-reading vagabond. Along his journey, he meets several similarly minded rogues and scoundrels including a good-natured but shallow party animal, a coked-out singer-songwriter and a bevy of barmaids and good-time girls. None of his new acquaintances, however, match the charisma of his hetero-soul mate Bryan, a wanted fugitive from New York high society who plays the ill-fated Neil Cassady to our man’s Jack Kerouac. There’s not much intensity to Bryan’s philosophical bon mots (“It is the memory of the journey that you will carry with you.”), which are cribbed straight out of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Yet his rough-hewn charm stands out and his absence at times is palpable. The paths of these two resolute easy riders converge and separate across lonesome roads from Kansas to Colorado and Austin to Key West. They indulge in ribald encounters in one-horse towns and endless drug-and-alcohol-induced macho bonding sessions. There’s traditional romance, too, with a married British temptress who captivates the narrator, but it’s his doomed love affair with his own youth and his wry observances of American rural life that make the book a winner.

The story of a man who went looking for America and found that it’s still there after all.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-9794128-0-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2011

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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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