Everyone has a story to tell in this impressive debut from Bombay-bred, Houston-based Chandra: a wide-ranging, often riveting patchwork of India's past and present and the clash of cultures in colonial and post-colonial times. Abhay returns to India after graduating from Pomona College, restless and unhappy; as a way of relieving tension he shoots an old monkey that's been stealing from his family for years. The monkey, on death's door, remembers its former life as an 18th- century poet, and in an agreement with the Lord of Death is allowed to live to tell its story (by means of typewriter!) to those interested. Abhay, his family, and an ever-increasing crowd gather to hear the tale of Sikander and Sanjay, the warrior and the poet, Anglo-Indian brothers who know the curse of being neither fish nor fowl in the early days of the British Raj. In their serpentine sagafrom miraculous birth and family tragedy to hard lessons of colonialismboth come to prominence only to turn on each other when Sanjay makes a pact with Death, bartering away his mortality in order to fight the English forever, at home and abroad, while Sikander in his old age dies protecting them. Meanwhile, Abhay, asked to fill in whenever the monkey tires, relates his own story of ennui and displacement in America, a tale in which he and two friends drop their studies and hit the road looking for heaven, which for him amounts to a moment of glory in defeating his girlfriend's father, a racist Texas judge, on the cricket pitch. In the end, he finds his storytelling is just beginning, and for him, too, it becomes a matter of life and death. The magical realities of India and Americathe heat of armor in battle, for instance, vs. the heat of a windshield on the freewayare disparate enough to jar sometimes as the two stories meet. Still: a richly textured and engrossing debut. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 1995

ISBN: 0-316-13276-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1995

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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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