Life in small-town Germany (1915-52) as chronicled by Trudi, a dwarf with her own agenda—courtesy of the German-born Hegi (Floating in My Mother's Palm, 1990, etc.) Trudi, whose birth drove her beautiful mother into madness and early death, carries a heavy burden. Her mother's madness was caused not by horror at Trudi's appearance but from guilt: while her husband was away fighting in WW I, she—pregnant—had an affair with his best friend. Trudi, then, a victim of guilt and madness, is an obvious metaphor for Germany—a witness for the prosecution, ``an underground messenger safeguarding her stories.'' Over the years she watches, listens, and slyly trades secrets for other secrets to add to her arsenal of information about the town. She, too, has allowed herself to be consumed by vengeance and hatred. Taunted and sexually assaulted as a young girl by four local boys, she had wished them ill, plotted their destruction, and now, when they all suffer, she begins to understand the corrosive power of hatred. Meanwhile, the town itself is a microcosm of German history as Trudi records its response to the economically distressed 1920's, the rise of Hitler, the growing anti-Semitism, and the postwar years when everyone wants to forget or deny their Nazi past. A slew of characters flesh out these events: courageous Frau Eberhart, whose Nazi son betrays her; Leon Montag, Trudi's wise and brave father; her lover Max, who is killed in the Dresden bombing; and friend Ingrid, who, obsessed by sexual guilt, commits suicide. Trudi, with her own share of sorrows and joys, survives to tell her story—all about ``what to enhance and what to relinquish. And what to embrace.'' Small-town life and the familiar Third Reich horrors are vividly evoked, but Trudi herself is more problematical. Trying to be too much—including a female alter ego for Gunter Grass's dwarf drummer—she is never quite in focus or really credible.

Pub Date: March 7, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-78075-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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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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