ST. AGNES' STAND

Adult western and first novel by the president and CEO of the PR firm Hill & Knowlton; film rights sold to Universal Pictures, with a screenplay by Larry McMurtry. All right, an adult western, but not a serious, epic adult western like McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. There's plenty of blood and daring in this tale, but no villain, since all action is morally grounded. Nat Swanson rides away from a west Texas town where he has killed a man in a fair fight. But the man's friends, believing him to have been shot in the back, set out to string up Swanson for murder. Pursued through Indian country in the parched New Mexico desert, Swanson comes across some wagons beset by Apaches. The wagons are manned by three nuns (a fourth is dead) who have rescued some children being held for ransom in Mexico. Swanson is tempted to go on, leaving the helpless folk to their deaths, but then joins their camp in a gully and helps the nuns hold off the Indians. The leader of the nuns is 67-year-old St. Agnes, who does not believe in killing Indians intent on killing her. Swanson finds himself in a moral bind, trying to save lives without killing anyone. Meanwhile, we join the Apaches and learn their motives for this attack. Although the Apaches have their own moral cat's cradle, they are nonetheless savages who enjoy torturing their victims. Will red magic, Apaches led by People of the Dream, prevail against black magic, the nuns praying in their shawls? Well, Eidson is not B. Traven, who would fearlessly lop our expectations off at the neck, but he does write clean and lean, with a hint of sage incense, and can strike a lingering chord. Should make mellow celluloid entertainment.

Pub Date: April 13, 1994

ISBN: 0-399-13915-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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