To those who've eagerly awaited Barnhardt's follow-up to his acclaimed debut novel, Emma Who Saved My Life (1989), this long- winded and lame excuse for an epic adventure will be a rude surprise. The theme itself has merit: an oft-rumored, seldom-seen Gospel written by the ``Thirteenth Apostle,'' Matthias, surfaces, prompting a race to acquire and translate it, because it supposedly reveals the truth about the Resurrection and false paths taken by Christ's other disciples. Foremost in the running are O'Hanrahan, an aging, alcoholic ex-Jesuit with an encyclopedic mind in matters theological, whose early success in deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls led only to a lifetime of colorful adventures and scholarly mediocrity, and Lucy, a meek, inexperienced graduate student in his Department of Theology at the University of Chicago sent to track him down, who blossoms under the old reprobate's tutelage as she becomes his tenacious assistant and drinking buddy. Allied with a secretive rabbi from Jerusalem, they chase the Gospel and its meaning from Ireland to Africa, and are chased by a mÇnage of misfits in turn, until an alliance of born-again elements from Louisiana and the CIA capture them, bringing them home to evangelist country, where the mysteries of the document finally come to light. Sadly, the prominence of travelogue commentaries and endless ephemera from centuries of Church history strip the saga of any momentum, turning the characters into mere markers on a map of the ancient world as it is today, who are moved only to be left beached like whales on the next exotic shore. Full of historical, religious, and comic flourishes, but misfiring terribly: this is interesting mostly for what it might have been.

Pub Date: April 16, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-08802-7

Page Count: 832

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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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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