Magical realism spurs on this solid debut.

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The Novel World of Angela Crown

In Deib’s debut novel, a personal tragedy leads a woman to obsess over the fates of fictional characters.

It’s been over a week since Angela Crown entered Vancouver General Hospital, deep in shock after Mark, her fiance, and John, her father, were killed during a bank robbery. Her sister, Maggie, takes her home, where they both hope that the warm familiarity will help heal Angela’s shattered mind. She begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Price, and returns to her love of reading. She soon realizes, however, that she has no tolerance for the physical and mental pain that the fictional characters experience. At a book signing, she attacks author Bruce Darling, calling him a criminal for the way he’s tortured his creations. Angela then decides that she’s a “Professional Reader” who must “intervene and rehabilitate depraved plots.” Writer Martin Magier is her next target after his new novel, Sara’s Tragedy, has a successful launch. Soon, she starts believing that her own life is a novel, and although she couldn’t save fellow characters John and Mark, she’s determined to save others. To that end, she refuses to abandon Sara to the cruel end that Magier has written for her—and not even the boundaries of reality can stop her. Deib’s intriguing concept will have readers wondering about the suffering that Angela’s character goes through as the narrative unfolds. The author creates a neat, unique fantasy setup: Angela can interact with characters in fictional worlds—but only as a ghost. She also finds that Magier’s fictional creations worship him as a god, which layers the tale with effective religious commentary. The text frequently shines with simple metaphors that book lovers will understand quite well: “Angela devoured each word and each page like parched soil receiving heavy rains.” Sometimes, though, the prose is a bit overcooked: “Like small fish glued together forming a gigantic shark, they swept across the land as if they were a powerful tsunami.” The sentimental finale leaves plenty of questions open for a potential sequel.

Magical realism spurs on this solid debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500694593

Page Count: 342

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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