Although I am still recovering from the Presidential debate debacle and the shock (well, maybe not so much) of the President being infected, I found a book to distract me. Clare Pooley’s The Authenticity Project promised to be a light cheery read and I submerged myself in the ebook version. Starting light with the premise of a journal passing anonymously to subsequent readers and writers, the story quickly morphed into a confessional.
Long before the pandemic was a household word, I often left paperbacks on planes or in terminals. Sometimes I found a book in the waiting area, and once I accidentally left The Dutch House on a seat. I had finished it but had to buy it again when it was time for the book club discussion (this time I listened to the Tom Hanks version). Sometimes, I purposely left a book on a park bench and tried to follow its trajectory through a website created for that purpose, but I quickly lost interest and the website address.
I have never revealed the pages of a personal journal; in fact, I follow the advice of a good friend and destroy the pages after purging my soul, rereading my angst, and moving on. In The Authenticity Project, the characters not only write about themselves but point to their identities so subsequent readers of the journal can find them.
One reviewer called the book a “cozy, feel-good read.” It does have a happy ending but the surprise betrayal took it off that course and strengthened the story with tension and realism. Julian, an elderly artist starts the project, writing about his loneliness and leaves the journal in a cafe where the owner, Monica, picks it up and decides to help him. She too writes about her desperation, and the book passes to a series of characters looking for friendship and love: an addict and wealthy banker Hazard, Australian surfer Riley, social media queen and new mother Alice, and a few others. Monica’s cafe becomes home base as they eventually connect in person and become friends, trying to help one another.
Through a series of humorous twists, the story morphs into the revelation of each character’s real inner identity; aspiration meets reality, and friendship reigns. The Authenticity Project will make you grateful for your friends, and mesmerize you into a better world for a while – we could all use that distraction.