A passionate, gorgeously written fictional account of an intellectual Russian woman's journey back to God and the Orthodox Christianity of her ancestors. ``Veronica,'' a widow in her mid-40s, journeys to the ancient monastery of Dzhvari in Georgia with her beloved son Mitya. The monastery is tiny and austere, and mother and son are met by just three monks. Still, life there is a revelation. Practicing the ancient ``Jesus Prayer,'' taking Communion, and talking with the terse, insightful abbot, Father Michael, is like finding water after a lifetime of thirst to this member of the Russian intelligentsia. Although women generally are forbidden in the monastery, Veronica is given special permission to stay for a period of weeks. Realizing that her days there are numbered, she drinks in everything, talking with the abbot at every opportunity. Their conversations are anything but light: ``Father Michael had said that in order to believe in God and receive this truth you must offer your entire being—your heart, will, understanding, mode of life. What can understanding do by itself?'' When their brief stay is up, both mother and son seem to have tasted something of a truth that passes human understanding. The story then jumps ahead six years: Veronica, now 50, visits another near-abandoned monastery (this one for women) while she awaits word from her son, who has become a monk. Though lonely, she puts her life in God's hands, reflecting on all the holy and instructive encounters she has had since she became a Christian a mere decade before. Miraculously, she receives word that her son has been sent to serve as a priest in a remote parish: God is good. She'll join Mitya and will live the rest of her life plumbing the mystery of Christianity with her son. A contemporary Way of the Pilgrim, first published in Russia in 1989, that's also a profoundly moving look at the state of one brave Russian woman's soul.

Pub Date: July 2, 1993

ISBN: 0-517-59194-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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