Twenty-one downbeat short stories from poet and novelist Cudahy (Nectar at Noon, 1989, etc.), chronicling with more imagery than insight the grim lives of men, women, and children trying to survive in a hostile world. In settings ranging from a house in the Maine woods to a Los Angeles apartment, Cudahy's characters' instinctive reaction to pressure is flight. With the one exception of the despised Dora, who exacts her own revenge on a high-school clique in ``The Pack,'' they all prefer to run rather than endure or even change their always miserable lives. In the title story, a grieving son flees his family in the city and heads to Maine as he always has for Christmas, even though his mother, who lived there through the winter because she preferred to ``stay on like the crows,'' is now dead. A black basketball player bound for college on an academic scholarship flees his vacationing parents, who are staying in an affluent uncle's lakeside cabin, because he feels alienated from their old-fashioned values and expectations (``Stay Tuned''); a young boy runs away from his mother in Los Angeles because he can't stand her lies, only to find that his father is an even bigger liar (``Boy''); a husband, terrified that the mounting pressures of his life will make him violent, heads to a remote cabin and befriends a she-wolf (``Peak''); and in the most fully realized story—``Best of Friends,'' another sour commentary on relations between the sexes—a young woman refuses to tell her boyfriend that she's pregnant and moves in with her aunt. Others, like the self- consciously surreal ``Calcutta Connections,'' ``Minna's Woods,'' and ``A Shoe, a Fable,'' limn despair at the suffering and loss of children. Often vivid language fails to relieve the relentless gloom. No day-brighteners these.

Pub Date: July 14, 1995

ISBN: 1-55713-202-X

Page Count: 250

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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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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