A novel of ideas that suffers from its own good intentions, manipulating a plot that ought to grow more naturally from them.

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CONDITIONS OF FAITH

The Australian Miller’s fifth novel but first to appear here: a well-intended but heavy-handed, plot-driven story of a 1920s woman trapped by motherhood.

Emily, a young Australian who impetuously marries much older Georges Elder, a half-Scot, half-French visiting engineer, wants more from life than hometown Melbourne can deliver. Her father wishes she’d continue her studies at Cambridge, in England, but Emily, finished with learning after taking her degree, thinks that marrying Georges, who is heading back to Paris, might be the solution. Georges, however, obsessed with submitting the winning design for a projected bridge in Sydney, doesn’t pay poor Emily enough attention once they’re back in Paris. She grows lonely and discontented, and, on a visit to her mother-in-law in Chartres, is ready for a barely credible seduction by the priest in charge of the bishop’s fruit in the crypt of the cathedral. Naturally, she finds herself pregnant and, naturally, instead of living the liberated life, feels sick and ugly. Another creaky plot turn brings her to Tunisia on vacation, where she meets a team of archeologists excavating the nearby ruins of Carthage and the prison cell of Perpetua, an early Christian martyr. Encouraged by the archeologists, Emily begins research Perpetua’s life. Back in Paris, determined to continue, she heads each day to the library, though pregnancy makes study difficult. Georges is not happy about her new preoccupation, but Emily is determined to persevere and is invited by the archeologists to work with them in Tunisia. First, though, she must give birth to a baby girl and confront the seducing priest, causing complications, though not for long: Emily soon makes the decisions necessary to a woman whose life must prove a point.

A novel of ideas that suffers from its own good intentions, manipulating a plot that ought to grow more naturally from them.

Pub Date: July 18, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-86935-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

WINDOW ON THE BAY

Macomber (Be a Blessing, 2019, etc.) threatens to set her latest beach read in Paris, but her characters have other plans.

Maureen Zelinski and Jenna Boltz have been friends since college. Years ago, their plans to go to Paris were thwarted when Maureen found out she was pregnant. Now that they’re both single mothers whose children have left the nest, the time is right to dust off their passports and try again. In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, Maureen and Jenna don’t make it to Paris just yet. Instead, they stay in Seattle and pursue new love interests. Jenna, a nurse, meets orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rowan Lancaster in the emergency room after her mother falls and hurts her hip. Maureen, against her better judgment, accepts a date with Logan, a union plumber who frequents the library where she works. Jenna is afraid to date a co-worker after her workplace romance with her ex failed, but when Rowan proves to be a good listener, she’s more willing to discuss her options. Maureen doesn’t think she’ll fit in with Logan and his beer-drinking buddies, but she’s surprised when she enjoys their date at a football game. Meanwhile, Jenna worries about her children, Allie and Paul, as they navigate college and life. Though the story is primarily told from the two mothers’ perspectives, Allie breaks into the narrative with a surprising connection to Rowan. Maureen’s daughter, Tori, also takes on the role of confidante. The happy endings (and potential travel plans) unfold with a touch of realism to contrast the idyllic backdrop of the Pacific Northwest.

Despite the false start, this heartwarming story sweetly balances friendship and mother-child bonding with romantic love.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-18133-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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