A welcome, honest effort.

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THE APPLE EATER

Tazelaar’s debut is a work of historical fiction that draws heavily from her childhood experiences under Nazi occupation in the Netherlands.

We meet Nella Koning, mother of three young children, on the eve of the German invasion, as she is roughly elbowed in the street by a uniformed thug belonging to the Dutch National Socialists. Tensions between loyal Dutch citizens and German sympathizers climb ever higher after the Dutch army’s swift defeat by the Nazi’s Wehrmacht, with Nella’s own father urging cooperation with the occupiers even as her husband Mark, an American expatriate, and his visiting brother Lincoln fall under Nazi suspicion. Through the use of a parallel protagonist, the part-Jewish teenager Joslyn, the author also explores the extraordinary lengths undertaken by righteous Dutch citizens to protect those in their midst who would otherwise fall victim to the Nazis’ abhorrent racial policies. Mark, Lincoln and Joslyn are each forced to deal with the indignities of a hostile occupation in different ways—the roguish Lincoln adopts an alias and eludes authorities using a number of disguises; Mark is arrested, removed to Munich and imprisoned; Joslyn poses as a Catholic among friendly nuns in a convent until mounting danger forces her to flee. Tazelaar’s clear, reserved prose crisply tells the story without calling attention to itself, efficiently and confidently setting scenes, introducing characters and fading into the background, making for an easy and accessible read. The dialogue is lively and engaging when characters interact with each other naturally, but has a tendency to go slightly tone deaf when called upon to deliver historical or military exposition. The author sometimes seems unsure how to parcel out this information, often relying on her characters to rush through factual recitations in a way dissonant to the rest of the narrative. Though numerous, such difficulties are thankfully brief, as Tazelaar returns to the task of intertwining Joslyn’s history with that of the Konings while the family—and their new, paranoid neighbors in the Dutch Nazi party—brace for German defeat.

A welcome, honest effort.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4363-2106-8

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2010

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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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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