An unforgettable re-creation of a vanished way of life.

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ROSE-TAINTED FRAGMENTS

In this luminous coming-of-age story, a boy absorbs the joys—and terrors—of life in an Italian village.

As the book chronicles a year in the life of a lad growing up on a small farm with his little sister and tensely dissatisfied working-class parents, the small town of La Croce offers a voluminous series of vivid set-pieces of peasant life. There are the sunlit mountain vistas and the timeless rhythms of wheat and grape harvests, arcane rites for warding off the evil eye, religious pilgrimages and knotty discussions of the Trinity, luscious meals and evenings spent at the boy’s warm-hearted grandparents’ farmhouse up the hillside, chasing fireflies and listening to tales of ruthless brigands, intrepid saints, philandering husbands and wives who get the last laugh. The boy’s existence revolves around small triumphs and sorrows—schoolyard fights, glimpses of an enchanting red-haired girl, the longing for a cowboy outfit like the ones in the movies—but he grows aware of darker undercurrents in his idyllic life: his father’s bitter class resentment, born of gnawing economic uncertainty; the gory slaughter of livestock that leaves the boy feeling guilt-stricken; smiling predators who lurk within the close-knit community. Working from his protagonist’s limited but keen perspective, Anonymo paints a sweeping social panorama of Italy in the ’60s, an era when rural life was yielding to a disruptive but hopeful modernity. La Croce is still ruled by age-old peasant verities such as the fearful understanding that “compared to hunger and pain, the rest of life is hardly real.” But also on the boy’s horizons are the Beatles and the Volkswagen Beetle, harbingers of an exciting future of glamour and pleasure; and weighing on everyone’s mind is the daunting, thrilling possibility of emigration to America. The author writes with a subtle, evocative prose that is at once earthy and lyrical. The boy’s fictive world emerges with such vibrant immediacy and immersive detail that we feel a powerful sense of loss when it starts to crumble.

An unforgettable re-creation of a vanished way of life.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-1453659977

Page Count: 416

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 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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