Sequel to Trott's The Holy Man (1995), which hit the bestseller lists—in San Francisco—for weeks. Trott has written ten novels, including Divorcing Daddy (1992). This modest story picks up with enlightened Anna and snide husband Errol and their two small kids still at the Holy Man's retreat on a sacred mountain in an Eastern country. Joe the Holy Man, now in failing health in his mid-70s, wants to go down the mountain for the first time in 25 years and see his mentor, Chen, for a farewell visit. As it happens, Chen is 25 years younger than Joe and has built a ``Univers-City,'' where 2,500 young disciples pay to keep Chen in luxury. Joe and Anna have several minor adventures on their way to Chen, and from each Anna learns something new via Joe's wisdom. During a visit to a shop, Anne is nearly raped but learns to accept blame for putting herself in danger's way. From a cab driver with an obsession to collect rare clay pots she learns about repressed creativity. From three beggar women she learns how to help the deprived feel worthy. Anna, it turns out, also has a gift for healing. At last she and Joe meet Chen, a Chinese genius who grew up in a Cambodian monastery before becoming Joe's teacher. Chen sees Joe as a great trickster, and when Joe dies offstage as Chen is speaking to his huge student body in the Univers-City auditorium, it's an act that an astonished Chen calls Joe's greatest trick. When Chen and Anna carry the old man's sweet-smelling corpse back to his monastery for burial, Anna discovers that her abrasive husband has seemingly run off with the kids. Meanwhile, Joe's death serves to jolt Chen back to reality. All right, mildly entertaining, but clearly for the already pre-sold.

Pub Date: March 17, 1997

ISBN: 1-57322-057-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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