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The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Pages
Nov 3rd, 2021


“How well do you know the people who live near you? How well do they know you? Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead?”

Julian Jessop, an artist recluse from his former life of glitz and glamour, wakes up every morning and debates rising from bed. He wonders if anyone else is lonely and disillusioned with life. He writes in a notebook what he’s feeling, and challenges the reader to add his/her own story, and to keep it going. The hope is to spread honesty, and the almost eighty-year-old is grasping for a life raft, a reason to keep floating. Julian’s “Authenticity Project” notebook makes it into the hands of several characters, all inspired from the people who have read and written inside the notebook before them. Monica owns a cafe and wonders if she will ever find love and have a family. Hazard is a struggling addict sickened with the monotonous cycle of his life. Riley hails from Australia and is anxious to see the world and interact with different people. Alice is a social media influencer and new mom who is finding it difficult to keep up appearances for hundreds of thousands of followers who expect perfection. 

The Authenticity Project notebook acts as a string tying the group together, and as they learn more about each other, they learn the most about themselves. The story is written in a bubble of sorts, with very few characters outside its nucleus. The characters lack development, and while the facts are stated, the characters remain hard to relate to. While there are few surprises in the narrative, they come across over-manufactured and unbelievable. Several times reading the book, I found myself skimming for dialogue, as not much happens in between exchanges. This is more than a light read; it’s too light. It’s meant to be a feel-good novel, and while it does present feel-good moments, they’re so few and lacking in substance that they left me feeling empty. Admittedly, I prefer a book with a good amount of meat, but even when a narrative is entirely reliant on plot, I expect the plot to do its job. Not every book needs to have a defined message, but this one attempts to, but falls far short. Some may describe this novel as an escape, but it’s not somewhere I would want to return. 

Authenticity is a noble concept, and a book with such a powerful word in the title should pack more of a punch. I was drawn to this title because of the word and the idea of strangers finding common purpose. The premise of the novel is more convincing than the actual story. For those in search of a light read, you could find better. I would give this book 2 out of 5 stars.