IF YOU LIVED HERE, YOU'D BE HOME BY NOW

The author's patented sly under-30 humor renders her first novel a triumphant addition to a canon that already includes an essay collection, Depth Takes a Holiday (1996), and her much-feted one-woman show, ``Aliens in America.'' If Bronwyn Peters is such a good young liberal, listening to NPR, giving money to good causes and stalwartly maintaining a bohemian lifestyle in the wasteland of Tujunga, a tract-house suburb not far from L.A., how come so many bad things keep happening to her? Once the hip batik-wearing girlfriend of the most successful writing student at San Jose State, Bronwyn is still, six years later (at the onset of the '90s) just ``the girlfriend,'' while writer Paul, whose attempts to sell a screenplay keep bombing, sinks deeper and deeper into a showbiz-induced depression. They're also sinking slowly into debt, but worst of all is Bronwyn's sense that despite Paul's Talent they're really just extras in someone else's movie—two anonymous, black-clad members of ``Los Angeles' vast, undocumented hip,'' with ``the crust of disappointment. . .all over them, the wild-eyed, sunburned despair.'' Yet Paul refuses to share Bronwyn's dream of ditching this city in favor of East Coast academia—even when her women's studies fellowship is canceled in favor of a new minority studies program (``It's the ethnics against the women!'' her advisor whispers). By the time the L.A. riots destroy any chance that Bronwyn and Paul will ever crawl out from under their real estate debt and escape L.A., Bronwyn has realized that she and Paul are simply not destined to win in this world—and that there's not really anything to do about it but get married and live as happily as possible. If some of Loh's comic references are a bit shopworn (corporate promotional parties, showbiz talk), that doesn't mean they aren't dead-on funny and true.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-57322-068-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Riverhead

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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