Sullivan (Sojourn of a Stranger, not reviewed) has a wry take on just about everything, from academia to marriage to suicide, but he delivers it gently. This is really two stories: one about a couple just forming, and the other about a couple reaching the end. The latter, 89-year- old novelist Max and his 86-year-old wife, Bunnie, have a tortured union. Both recall all the slights suffered at each others' hands. They were rabidly unfaithful to each other and once separated, Bunnie going to Italy for a while to decide whether or not they could—and should—work things out. When Max visited her in Italy and she noticed that he was genuflecting in front of religious art, he admitted he had returned to the Catholic faith in her absence because ``it got me out of the house.'' The ensuing dialogue is a hilarious Ping-Pong match. The novel opens with Bunnie's first stroke. After the stroke, Bunnie's nephew Julien comes to live with the couple; and when Bunnie has another stroke and is hospitalized, he takes up with a young nurse named Shannon. These two have their own problems—mostly due to Shannon's drugged past and the loss of her best friend in a car accident—although they don't quite have the same flair in working them out as their older doppelgÑngers. It's surprising and enjoyable to find so much action in a novel that relies so heavily on its characters' memories. Not every scene here is perfect: When Max reminisces about a prostitute known as Miss Baby and then tries to track her down by calling various escort services and asking for her, it's uncomfortably clear what is to come; Shannon resists Julien strongly, and then does an abrupt turn-around and purposely becomes pregnant with his child. Still, as dismal as much of the subject may sound—aging, illness, depression—the tone is antic, as Max and Bunnie grow old gracelessly, but entertainingly. Sullivan delivers that rarity, black comedy without bitterness.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8071-1985-7

Page Count: 195

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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