There seems to be a happy ending here, though it’s hard to be certain for whom.

READ REVIEW

MY EDUCATION

The sexual initiation of a graduate student, who learns how much she does not know, in a novel that somehow feels both overstuffed (style) and undernourished (substance).

From the reference in the first sentence to “a highly conspicuous man,” one of “scandalous, noteworthiness, and exceptional, even sinister, attractiveness,” Choi (A Person of Interest, 2008, etc.) makes it obvious to the reader that the novel’s rites of passage won’t be confining this education to the classroom. Yet what seems inevitable, particularly after the narrator becomes the teaching assistant to the man of such scandalous, sinister attractiveness, turns out to be anything but, as her attraction to her mentor is mere prelude to complications involving the professor’s wife, the professor’s nannies, the narrator’s roommate, and one alcohol-drenched party and another even more drunken happy hour. Throughout, Regina Gottlieb seems as clueless and directionless as she is articulate (or at least verbose; she expresses herself in convoluted sentences and paragraphs that test the reader’s endurance). She thinks and writes (for, ultimately, she becomes a writer) like this: “Even I, who had never before had a female lover; much less one who was married; much less married to my own former mentor; much less a professor herself at the school at which I was a student—even I who, due to all this complicated inexperience...,” and so on. Her orgasms require expressions almost as choppy: “I seemed to come right away, with a hard, popping effervescence, as if her mouth had raised blisters, or an uppermost froth; but beneath, magma still heaved and groaned and was yearning to fling itself into the air.” Flash forward 15 years, when she informs, succinctly, “Reader, I grew up,” and her education has now extended to her own marriage (“an intricate code of reliance”) and middle age (when “the least reconcilable times of one’s life would in fact coexist until death” and “I didn’t live thoughtlessly in my flesh anymore”). Yet her past improbably returns as more than flashbacks, and her education leaves her by the end knowing even less than when she had started.

There seems to be a happy ending here, though it’s hard to be certain for whom.

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-02490-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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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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