Vivid and complex, this novel is a portrait of a very specific moment in history that feels just as vital today.

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IN THE LAND OF ETERNAL SPRING

In his debut novel, Howard pits youthful idealism against the realities of post-colonial Latin America.

Peter Franklin is a Fulbright Scholar living in Guatemala City in 1963, researching the Great National Literacy Campaign and working closely with the U.S. Embassy. At an embassy party he meets Laura Jenson, a Peace Corps volunteer living in a village outside the city; her initial work with wells was cut short after a corrupt official made off with the funds, leaving her to work on launching a literacy program for locals. Peter and Laura slowly forge a relationship, and when Laura becomes involved with a growing revolutionary movement, Peter starts working with her. But quickly the state security forces become aware of their involvement, and the young couple become fugitives in a country they had once hoped to help through peaceful means. Telling a story about Latin America through the eyes of U.S. citizens is a risky move, but it’s one the author pulls off well. Capturing the sense of intellectual hope that resonated in the JFK years, the author has crafted a book that interrogates the place of Americans in the developing world and their capacity for helping solve problems created in large part by their own government’s policies. The novel is subtly critical of the “White Savior” narrative, although at times the story (told from the perspective of a young white man) is overwhelmed by the clear sense of entitlement even supposed liberal reformers can feel. But ultimately this is a cautionary tale for those who believe it is their place to “fix” a country to which they do not belong, a lesson that is just as important today as it was in the early 1960s.

Vivid and complex, this novel is a portrait of a very specific moment in history that feels just as vital today.

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941861-394

Page Count: 315

Publisher: Harvard Square Editions

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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