Tiresome, by-the-numbers Southern fiction—an odd combination of the overheated and boring.



Trembling earnestness almost redeems the turgid prose and superabundance of stock characters in this murder mystery that strains hard for mythic import and Deep Meaning.

Hushpuckashaw County, Miss., is hell. And Bailey (The Grace That Keeps This World, 2005, etc.) stokes the fire relentlessly. There’s been a demonic crime: Drowned in the bath one Friday morning is the baby girl of Sissy Rule Tisdale, daughter of the backwater’s leading family. And the punishment is yet more heinous: Letitia Johnson, the Rules’s long-trusted nanny, is lynched, then tarred and set on fire. Into the aftermath arrives Baby Allen, a social worker entrusted to find a foster home for Letitia’s hapless daughter, a 12-year-old fearing the eye-for-an-eye wrath of vigilantes headed up by the nefarious Calvin McGales. He’s captain of Camp 5 of Parchman Farm, the state’s bleakest prison. Mr. Boss Chief Lemaster, more or less Satan incarnate, runs the inferno. His boy, Jake, betrays occasional decency, even while skulking in the shadows, afraid to cross his social-climbing, doll-perfect missus. Jake has his hands full when Bigger, Letitia’s lover and a hulking Parchman presence, stabs a prison guard, committing the grossest act of all: Black con offs white cop. Soon enough, Baby’s and Jake’s paths intersect—she desperate for info that’ll clear Letitia (hint: Sissy’s mom is fairly unhinged), he desperate that Parchman not become a riot scene. In subplot after subplot, Bailey piles on the aw-shucks dialogue while hoeing the same row that Harper Lee and Earnest Gaines did so much better. Ultimately, Jake is martyred; Baby is vindicated; Letitia’s daughter herself becomes a social worker.

Tiresome, by-the-numbers Southern fiction—an odd combination of the overheated and boring.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8332-X

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?