4 out of 5 stars
I am a sucker for a feel-good story, and The Authenticity Project is a perfectly frothy little breeze of a book.
A lonely, eccentric old man named Julian gets an idea: People should tell the truth about themselves. So he writes his in a green notebook – his past as an artist, his bon vivant heyday adjacent to fame during which he never truly valued his long-suffering, now departed wife. He calls it The Authenticity Project, and leaves it in a local cafe. The owner, tightly-wound, uber-Type A Monica, finds it and, with a leap of faith, writes her own truth: she’s lonely and wants a partner and family. She leaves it in a bar, where Hazard, a handsome party boy fleeing his addictions, takes it on a his detox trip to Thailand. From there, it circulates a small group of strangers who nevertheless find themselves meeting in real life at Monica’s Cafe. They each know those who wrote in the book before them – they know each other’s truths. But because truth is hard to tell, in some ways they each hide that they know it, creating an inauthentic layer that turns The Authenticity Project on its head.
Look, I love a gimmick. An anonymous diary in which to journal your emotional issues for strangers to learn from? YES. Handwriting anything at all? YES. Does it result in love, identity acceptance, and small business success? Deal a blow to the fraudulence of social media and make an old person feel young again? IS THERE A DOG? Take my money.
Charming, if predictable, consequences follow – white lies, misunderstandings, half-truths. All gently bad things, done for the “right” reasons. But the point is truth, and it always comes out. Nothing too terrible or groundbreaking – there’s never a question we are happy ending-bound. But which version? There are several possibilities for each character, and that’s what charmed me most about this book. Everyone has their “perfect” life, but instead they each come to see several versions of possible happiness: all attainable, none exactly what they’d had in mind. Maybe you don’t need the “insert trope here” (baby, husband, social media following, drug, fame, etc.) you were so desperately set on. Maybe you already have more than you know.
The lesson of The Authenticity Project isn’t subtle, but it will definitely make you smile.