Four likable women and an unusual plot that lets readers learn to know them: a fine debut.

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FEEDING CHRISTINE

Memory, tradition, and family are the ingredients for a tale about how food can save the soul.

Bread and Roses is an upstate New York catering firm run by four very different women: Teresa DiRosa, the owner, who puts her whole heart and soul into the business, especially now that her husband has divorced her and her son, who isn’t speaking to her, has just left for college; Delia, Teresa’s girlhood friend, who can’t cook but has a winning way with people and handles promotion; Amberlin, who bakes; and Teresa’s niece Christine, who helps with odds and ends, rounding out the cozy family of four. But something goes sorely amiss when Teresa, Delia, and Amberlin begin the two-day preparation for their annual Christmas open house and enormous feast: namely, that Christine shows up in the early morning with a gun in her purse, wanting to kill herself. Teresa, already guilty about not having done enough to help her now-dead sister Nan (Christine’s mother), in an irrational but practical fit hits her suicidal niece with a frying pan and ties her up in the cellar. The others are aghast when they discover what’s transpired but seem equally baffled about how to proceed. So the three work at rolling dough and slicing salmon while Christine waits to be untied. She’s fed up with her own life, including the awful childhood she had with her alcoholic and maybe schizophrenic mother; a psychiatrist fiancé who now thinks she may be nuts; and the seven-year anniversary of her mother’s suicide, which happens to coincide with the big party. Interwoven throughout are the memories of the four women, and gradually reconciliation emerges. Teresa’s memories of her Italian grandmother give her the hope that nourishment—of one kind or another—can make Christine well.

Four likable women and an unusual plot that lets readers learn to know them: a fine debut.

Pub Date: July 11, 2000

ISBN: 0-553-80165-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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