Clunky writing and a rabidly partisan view hobble the thrills, but not fatally.

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THE ARMAGEDDON PROJECT

The White House and its religious and oil industry backers pin big hopes on a tiny Christian sect in war-ravaged Iraq.

Paris-based journalist Sam Preston is the only reporter to dig deep into the mysteries surrounding the explosion that leveled a church belonging to the tiny Assyrian Christian congregation on the Rue Galande. Preston is a recovering alcoholic with great writing skills and years of useful experience covering France, which he loves. His story gets the attention of Rafat Ganjibar, the obese and grandiose self-styled leader of the Assyrians, who summons the reporter to let him know of the Assyrian hope to declare an independent state for the religious minority in Iraq. Preston doesn’t know what to make of the creepy Ganjibar, nor does he know how seriously to take the offer of his French colleague Charles Dumond to include him in the investigation of some shady arms dealing that involves a disgraced resistance hero who was once the friend of the current French president. As it turns out, the arms dealing leads back to the Assyrians. And so does Princess Tawana, an American gospel singer with a French band whose breakout hit is based on her firm belief in the prophecies laid out in the Book of Revelation. The Assyrians, Princess Tawana and the arms dealers all have ties to the administration of U.S. President Jack Ritter, who, if he weren’t so short and weren’t from New Mexico, would be a dead ringer for G. W. Bush. President Ritter, taking his marching orders from his evil vice president, whose former employer would be a dead ringer for Halliburton if the oil-exploiting conglomerate weren’t so huge and cynical, is in the grip of evangelical Christians. Those Christians, like Princess Tawana, are buckling down for Armageddon, an event they await with pleasure.

Clunky writing and a rabidly partisan view hobble the thrills, but not fatally.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2007

ISBN: 1-59051-252-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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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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