BEYOND THE FIRE

A dizzy whirlwind of a debut thriller that ultimately runs out of air: about the fate of an American soldier trying to return home 25 years after having been listed as missing in action. Do the garroted corpses of employees of the Manhattan-based international arms-dealer Parker Global have anything to do with the savagely wounded hulk of a Colonel Everett Ransom found bleeding in the Vietnamese jungle? First-novelist Salinger suggests a connection as he cuts rapidly between the idyllic paradise of postwar Vietnam and the NYPD Bluelike milieu of Homicide Lieutenant Mel Fink and his partner, Don Barton. As Barton and Fink (their names are juxtaposed, making for a series of campy allusions to the Coen brothers movie) are seduced but not corrupted by various denizens of Parker Global, Colonel Ransom awakens to find himself under the care of Isaac ``Zach'' Johnson, a saintly Army medic who was captured by the Viet Cong and has survived all these years as a village doctor. Ransom vows to take Johnson, and his Vietnamese girlfriend Mee Yang, back to the States—no simple task, thanks to a sky-high pile of thinly brushed bad guys inside Parker Global, the Pentagon, and the news media. Soon, everybody wants to kill Johnson and Ransom, a former bad guy who did secret arms smuggling for Parker Global. Salinger doesn't let any of his microscopically brief chapters end without Hollywood-style ultraviolence, bedroom acrobatics, or a snickering revelation of how nasty some Americans can be. Whatever help such devices might offer, his story still collapses under the corpses of too many interchangeably vile also-rans, while his thesis—that finding out what really happened to our Vietnam vets, POWs, and MIAs is the kind of prayer that God can only answer as a curse—does not convince. A quick, breezy, confusing read that, despite its baggy plot, gratuitous sex, and ditto violence, shows the skills of a writer who is meant for finer things.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52079-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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