A moving love story that handles deep emotions with a light touch.



Tragedy forces a cantankerous old man to reconnect with the world in this luminous fable.

David Harris, a retired grocer and unapologetically “dried-up old geezer,” wants nothing more than to spend his days sitting on the couch playing video football. Alas, his wife Emily insists on dragging him on errands. She is the heart and soul of their scruffy, multicultural Brooklyn neighborhood, knowing everyone and seeing everything, always prepared to search out a neighbor’s lost dog or reprove an obstreperous lout. (David’s public interactions consist mainly of grousing at people he thinks aren’t doing their jobs right, like the local pizza maker.) Emily has other eccentricities, including a conviction that everything happens for a reason, that one person’s truth may not be another’s, that wishes come true, even if they involve lottery tickets, that she is always right (a conceit David finds especially irritating because it is true). As annoyed as David gets with his wife, he’s also passionately in love with her, and when she collapses on the sidewalk with a heart attack the bottom falls out of his world. She’s revived by a Hindu shop owner who used to be a surgeon, but her doctors insist that she have a risky operation or face imminent death; in the “foul silence” of his suddenly empty apartment, David contemplates the prospect of an empty life. O’Neill crafts a wryly charming romance that spins itself out of the outwardly exasperated, inwardly tender screwball banter of its leads. It’s also a love letter to a big-hearted Brooklyn of neighborhood characters and immigrant strivers. And it’s a study of loss and grief that takes a swerve toward magical realism when David realizes that Emily’s networking skills are more impressive than he realized. Carried along by David’s sardonic, jaunty voice, the story doesn’t stray into mawkishness even as it registers trauma and sorrow.

A moving love story that handles deep emotions with a light touch.

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-440440212

Page Count: 228

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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