He may have meant to warn against fresh hubris, but humor is a tricky vehicle at a time when refugees, casualties and...



The entire U.S. anti-terror apparatus is trained on one hapless pharmaceutical salesman in this debut novel by a U.S. congressman from New York.

Morris Feldstein’s personal philosophy is “[d]on’t make waves,” but he winds up making a tsunami. He stumbles into a one-nighter—actually 22 minutes—with a doctor’s receptionist shortly after she’s had a bad date with a creep who adulterates stolen medications and sells them as legitimate. The creep connection and Dick Cheney’s need to boost the terror alert ahead of the 2004 Republican convention put Morris on the radar of several federal agencies. His dalliance also requires atonement by acceding to his wife’s demand for a condo in Florida. There, she befriends a young Muslim towel boy, one of four suicide-bombing volunteers in a terrorist group, who’s been waiting 30 months for a mission. Now Morris really has a connection to terrorists, and Cheney has the makings of a hot alert color. In a book dotted with Yiddish expressions from the first word—“tsuris,” or trouble—Morris, alas, is a schlub, while his wife, Rona, plays guilt-breeding Jewish mother to a nice Muslim boy who isn’t sure the 72 virgins are worth it. There’s a lot of cliché to these characters, which is fine for farce and for their main role of getting the feds into a high-tech version of the Keystone Kops. Israel has fun with the bureaucratic side of national security but offers few surprises, while his political jabs are rather flat and facile, and, after all, a decade late.

He may have meant to warn against fresh hubris, but humor is a tricky vehicle at a time when refugees, casualties and decapitations can make it hard to see the lighter side of any aspect of the war on terror.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7223-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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