There is nothing tentative in this collection—these are fully formed talents.



This latest collection of stories from US and Canadian writing programs is vibrant and diverse, well up to the high standard set by its predecessors.

Novelist Miller (Lost in the Forest, 2005, etc.) has assembled 15 stories, all roughly contemporary, except “The Temperate Family,” by Caimeen Garrett, a remarkable account of an anguished father’s search for his kidnapped son in 1876. As before, the immigrant experience is well-represented: Russians in Pittsburgh (Ellen Litman’s “About Kamyshinskiy”), Indians in Houston (Keya Mitra’s “Pompeii Recreated”) and a Pakistani in limbo (Fatima Rashid’s “Syra”). The standout in this group is “A Correct Life,” Viet Thanh Nguyen’s story about Liem, an 18-year-old Vietnamese who flees Saigon in 1975 and is taken in by a gay couple in San Francisco—culture shock has seldom been so perceptively rendered. American families experience shocks of their own. Blue-collar father and college-dropout son circle each other grimly after the old man’s divorce (“Karaoke Night,” by Dan Pope); sparks fly when alcoholic, four-times-married Frederick the Third shows up for his grandfather’s funeral and finds forgiveness in short supply (“The Freddies,” by M.O. Walsh). Another grandfather, dying in Puerto Rico, gets no respect from his son or grandson, who are off partying elsewhere in the Caribbean; for sheer exuberance, nothing beats this freewheeling story by Kevin A. González (“Wake”). Equally good, in a quieter way, is Anne de Marcken’s “Ashes”; here, a widow ponders the gap between image and reality as she scatters her husband’s ashes. Sometimes characters are dwarfed by a theme (exurban development obliterating American folklore, in Lydia Peelle’s “Shadow on a Weary Land”); sometimes a character sketch serves for a story, whether it’s a control freak masquerading as a good neighbor (Alice J. Marshall’s “By Any Other Name”) or a black postgraduate struggling with a drug habit (T. Geronimo Johnson’s “Winter Never Quits”); yet there is fine observation even in these lesser offerings.

There is nothing tentative in this collection—these are fully formed talents.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-603155-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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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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