Bleached of genuine drama or human interest, an excellent driving-in-the-car-while-looking-for-parking-place-near-the-beach...


Shea’s lackluster fourth (Lily of the Valley, 1999, etc.) follows a woman’s recollection of a formative summer on a pony farm—when her best friend kidnapped a baby and stole her boyfriend.

With bland prose that expends itself in quantities far more impressive than the simple points it tries to make, Shea introduces 40-ish Robyn Panek as she returns to her Uncle Pal’s horse farm in Massachusetts to sell the old place. Uncle Pal, widowed for some years, has recently fallen ill and is intent on getting rid of it. Shea stirs memories as Robyn recalls the girlhood summer she spent on the farm, when the overbearingly named Lucy Dragon, a distant relative, showed up for a visit in the aftermath of a suicide attempt. Robyn asserts that this had been shocking for her, but Shea never really gives the reader a feel for it, aside from some stale “I remember I went to a mental institution once and it was scary” anecdotes from Lucy. Robyn had also been in love with goodhearted Frankie, the delivery boy from the local dairy, and shortly after Lucy arrived, she began flirting with him. Lucy then snatched a nearby baby and hid out with Frankie for a few days, until the three of them were caught. Robyn fled, but two decades later, Lucy herself, now an established realtor, shows up to help sell the farm. She’s in a giving-something-back sort of mood and confides to Robyn that she’d been pregnant, had been forced to give the child up for adoption, and was feeling some baby-yearning that summer. Frankie shows up, too, tells Robyn the dark secret of hiding with Lucy, and owns up to the fact that he’s still in love with Robyn. They get together, but one morning both the prized horses and Lucy go missing. Mad reenactment of a past horror? Not to worry: Lucy’s been swinging a sweet deal that leaves everyone happy.

Bleached of genuine drama or human interest, an excellent driving-in-the-car-while-looking-for-parking-place-near-the-beach read.

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-7434-0375-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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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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