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The Authenticity Project

Review

The Authenticity Project

In an author’s note at the end of THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT, Clare Pooley reveals how her debut novel grew out of her earlier blog-turned-bestselling nonfiction book, THE SOBER DIARIES: “What I discovered is that telling the truth about your life really can work magic and change the lives of many other people for the better.” Pooley relates how her experience of publishing a blog-turned-book about her own struggles with addiction and recovery had a ripple effect in the lives of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. In THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT, she dramatizes this process in a tale of a new, supportive community that builds from a single story.

The titular project is started by a septuagenarian named Julian, an artist and former raconteur who hasn’t felt much like himself since the death of his wife more than a decade earlier. Lonely and under pressure from his neighbors to sell his beloved home in a former London artist’s colony to developers, Julian decides to embark on a new project of sorts. He writes a bit about himself in a green notebook and then leaves it for someone else to find, with the following instructions: “Please feel free to chuck it in the recycling. Or you might decide to tell your own truth in these pages and pass my little book on…. What happens next is up to you.”

"THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT is a feel-good novel that still prompts thought and self-reflection --- and might even inspire some readers to embark on a truth-telling odyssey of their own."

Julian’s notebook is discovered by Monica, a young woman who is experiencing some measure of professional satisfaction --- she recently quit her high-powered lawyer job to open a homey café --- but she secretly wants to be a wife and, more than anything, a mother. She can’t admit these maternal desires to anyone else --- certainly not to the men she dates --- but she reveals her truth in the pages of Julian’s notebook. When Monica in turn passes the stories along, she sets in motion a series of events that result in new friendships, unpleasant revelations and more than one romance, as the small act of storytelling carries repercussions not only through their small neighborhood but even to the other side of the world.

It's not always easy or comfortable to tell one’s true story, as Pooley believably relates in her novel. Some characters lie with the best of intentions; others fail to disclose their knowledge of the project; still others discover that not everyone wants the truth to come out --- especially when they’re not in charge of their own narrative. In so doing, Pooley adds a bit of a realistic edge and bite to what easily could have become a too-simple treacly tale.

Each of the novel’s relatively short chapters is told from the point of view of a different character. Mirroring the book’s overall trajectory, the number of characters grows and grows, until more than a half-dozen different perspectives contribute to the story. THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT is a feel-good novel that still prompts thought and self-reflection --- and might even inspire some readers to embark on a truth-telling odyssey of their own.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 7, 2020

The Authenticity Project
by Clare Pooley

  • Publication Date: February 4, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
  • ISBN-10: 1984878611
  • ISBN-13: 9781984878618