TOBACCO STICKS

Hazelgrove debuts in hardcover with an ambitious novel of the twilight years of segregation in Richmond, Virginia, that tries to bebut never quite islike all those great southern stories that celebrate justice overcoming the ties of place and kin. Narrated by 12-year-old Lee Hartwell, the youngest member of an old Virginia family, the story begins in the last year of WW II. In that summer of 1945, Lee's brother Lucas returns from the war, wounded in the foota wound that, of course, raises all sorts of questions about Lucas. But Lucaslike Lee's mother, who needs frequent rest cures, and sister Sally, who's extraordinarily bitterwill remain marginal to Hazelgrove's plot, important more for adding dark texture to an already menacing atmosphere than for providing opportunities for analysis. What really matters here is the trial of a young black woman, Fanny Jones, the daughter of the Hartwells' housekeeper, Addie. This trial, the story's dramatic centerpiece, will test the family, their principles, and their position in a still rigidly segregated society. Fanny, who is accused by her employer, Mr. Hillman, an evil factory owner and political king-maker, of stealing his silver tea service, is defended by Burke Hartwell, Lee's father, simply because it is the right thing to do. The pace picks up as Lee describes the events that led up to the trial: his father's refusal to support Hillman's sleazy senatorial candidate; Fanny's meeting with black organizer Silas Jackson, who is later gunned down; the hostility of old friends to his father's defense of Fanny; and his growing friendship with Careen, Hillman's daughter. Race and sex are, as usual, part of the bigoted nastiness that Burke Hartwell courageously confronts. Too many echoes of other books, too much promised, and yet a moving if flawed reminder of a not-so-distant shameful past, detailed with grace and sensitivity.

Pub Date: July 15, 1995

ISBN: 0-9630052-8-6

Page Count: 308

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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