SOCIAL BLUNDERS

In the final installment of his GroVont trilogy (Skipped Parts, 1991; Sorrow Floats, 1992), Sandlin completes the backwoods soap opera in which our hero loses his girl, searches for his father, and finally comes of age at 33. Not that Sam Callahan is a late bloomer in all respects: Readers of the earlier works will recall that he became a father at 13 and inherited his Grandpa Caspar's gigantic North Carolina estate five years later. Nevertheless, he has maintained a prepubescent psyche that is no longer equal to his situation. ``Traumatic events always happen,'' according to Sam, ``exactly two years before I reach the maturity level to deal with them.'' Today, he has his hands full: His wife has left him, his daughter has lost her virginity, his mother is wanted for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan's dog, and his writer's block has left him two years behind schedule with Bucky on Half Dome (the latest of the young-adult novels that have made his name as an author). How better to take his mind off things than by tracking down his father? It seems that Sam's mother conceived him as the result of a gang-rape perpetrated by five high-school football players who still live in the neighborhood. Sam finds that looking them up only increases his misery—in a variety of ways that most readers could have predicted—but in the end he succeeds in piecing together a new life from the fragments of the old. About as intricate as an episode of Cheers, Sandlin's narrative is likable enough but relies too heavily on a quick tempo and a wry voice. Good clean fun, but not much else.

Pub Date: June 9, 1995

ISBN: 0-8050-1628-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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