A cozy, richly written delight.

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STICKLEBACKS AND SNOW GLOBES

In this magical debut, working-class British council-estate life becomes a sort of quotidian wonderland starring children clever and strange and very real.

Eight-year-old Tot is a “glass child,” an epileptic always with a wary eye out for the pouncing arrival of “Kit-the-Fit,” her personification of the seizures that wet her knickers and send her tongue fluttering. Her dad, a sweetheart, good-for-little dreamer, sometimes mistakes her writhing for “doing Stevie,” his nod to the jerking dance moves of his idol, Motown master Stevie Wonder. Trumpeter for the Blue Notes, a ragtag Dixieland crew swinging the corner pub, he fantasizes splitting for The Big Easy. Goodjohn’s got a winsome soft spot, but she’s a tough naturalist, too, so she actually has dad abandon the wife and kids. Which leaves Tot mourning, collecting snow globes and fishing for stickleback in company with the “Our Gang” of the Stanley Close tenement, new arrival Keesal, who’s Paki and picked-on, Seamus the Retard and his brother Michael, football-star dreamboat. Terrific Glitter-Decade detail (Tot dreams about Bianca Jagger, Farrah Fawcett’s vinyl jumpsuit and really killer platform boots) alternates with dead-on musings about dead-end politics. The stars around Tot’s moon, her stuck-up mom and sister Dorothy (“Queen of Ladylike”) and Catholic-school daredevil Lily (“who had touched a dead man’s face in a funeral parlor”) are the tenement’s hard-suffering regiment of women, their lives filled with ordinary joy and loss until Dorothy shocks the neighbors with her pregnancy. And Tot’s poetic look at life turns worldly wise.

A cozy, richly written delight.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-57962-155-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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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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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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