A sprawling, melodramatic debut ``by and about best friends'' that has enough plot twists and surprises for a season of soap operas. And, for all its attention to intraracial conflict and sexual politics, it eventually boils down to one affirmative, ``You go, girl.'' As their fortunes rise and fall in the world, the two unlikely best friends from the St. Albans section of Queens manage to take on the best qualities of each other. Patricia Reid is the hard case: An unwanted child of an alcoholic mother, she early on learns to be tough and self-sufficient. Gayle Saunders, on the other hand, is the pampered only child of a hard-working couple who eventually take in Patricia. While Gayle dreams of fancy clothes, a big house, and marriage to Marcus, a talented athlete, Pat concentrates on her school work, which earns her scholarships, first to boarding school, then to Princeton. She also discovers the black aristocracy on Martha's Vineyard and reinvents herself with a suitable pedigree. Marcus refuses to marry Gayle before he succeeds in major league baseball (which he eventually does), so she takes up with Ramsey Hilliard, a successful landscape contractor. As Gayle and her baby enjoy suburban living, Pat makes her mark on Mad Ave as a crackerjack ad producer. When the women seem to have grown hopelessly apart, tragedy reunites them. After Ramsey's gambling addiction bankrupts the Hilliards, Gayle and her daughter suffer one indignity after another, finally landing in a homeless shelter where Pat volunteers. Their tear-filled reunion, with Marcus now a celebrity athlete married to Pat, finds them both chastened: Pat has learned to temper her ambition with love, and Gayle has become practical and thoughtful. Driven by believable characters and no little sentiment, the two authors never lay on the molasses too thick. Not as literary as Gloria Naylor, this sisterhood-is-powerful first novel seems a natural for Oprah's Book Club. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15233-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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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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