A professional storyteller and performer of Appalachian ballads attempts to bring to life in print her small mountain community in North Carolina. While some are barely anecdotes and others longer narratives, Adams's 32 tales are meant to add up to a portrait of a people and a place. Not surprisingly, they succeed when particularized and ring hollow when riddled with platitudes. ``Granny''based on the author's great-aunt Dellie Chandler Norton, a famous balladeer in her own rightis the strongest continuous thread, although as a character she often falls victim to the veneer of sentimentality that overwhelms the weaker sketches. In ``Answers to Life's Questions,'' for example, Adams calls Granny, blandly, ``...the most exciting person I had ever known.'' Overall, the second-hand stories, passed down for generations, are the most effective: In ``Marking a Trail,'' Adams's grandfather ``Breaddaddy'' tells of The High Rock and its seven holes so that it seems a living fairy tale; in ``Grubbing Out the Stump,'' the secret of a 60-plus-year marriage is revealed with humor and genuine warmth; and the charming but edgy ``Bertha and the Snake Handlers'' is a real tour- de-force. But tales told from Adams's adult perspective lack the tang of the burnished ``histories'': ``Off to Ivydale,'' for one, could be Anyteens in a Rural Setting, USA. And when Granny's old age and eventual death are the subject, the writing turns wholly sentimental: Phrases like ``I will miss her as long as I live''from ``Ending Granny's Story''come straight out of Hallmark-land. The end note, though, ``Weather Breeder'' (which returns to Adams's childhood), has the sensory specificity that distinguishes the best of the batch. A whole isn't quite provided by the sum of these parts: What may be missing in Adams's first collection is the sound of her own voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 1995

ISBN: 0-8078-2243-4

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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