Appealing and often very funny—both important pluses in a crowded field of domestic “drama dies.”


An easy read, and promising debut novel, about a woman whose “free spirit” of a mother has left her ill-prepared for the practicalities of life as a single parent.

Maz Lombard is a mid-30s mom whose life revolves around her two preteen daughters, the local day-care center, and her job as a baker in a health-food store. Then she gets caught in the crossfire when her wacky mother (Madame Lucille, a self-dubbed “Fortune Teller to the Stars,” who burned through quite a few husbands and carnivals during Maz’s childhood) teams up with Maz’s disloyal husband, Lenny (gone for a year to New Mexico, and expected not to return). Lucille and Lenny not only endlessly complicate Maz’s life but also put a wedge between her and her older daughter, ten-year-old Hope. Meanwhile, Maz’s best friend Hannah counsels her as she tries to get back into the dating swim. (On her one attempt, she muses, “theoretically, I would love to sleep with him, but I can’t remember how to get started.”) Rounding out the ensemble cast are Joliet, a day-care teacher with a bad habit of seducing husbands, including Maz’s, and a couple of interested beaus—a hunky graduate student and a low-key naturopathic physician. Maz’s job seems increasingly tedious as she confronts challenges to all the relationships in her life and figures out what she wants for herself. When her mother and husband spirit Hope away to New Mexico, Maz learns to trust her gut and fight for what she loves. Shelton, author of three parenting books, has a good touch with mother/daughter conflicts and a strong sense of the ambiguities of friendships. Her Maz is a sympathetic character not in spite of but because of her self-acknowledged flaws.

Appealing and often very funny—both important pluses in a crowded field of domestic “drama dies.”

Pub Date: March 8, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-8295-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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