A very dated fictional hagiography of the Kennedy era, written by novelist and journalist Rivers (Indecent Behavior, 1990; Slick Spins and Fractured Facts, 1996, etc.) in a tone so reverent that it could turn Arthur Schlesinger’s stomach. If you still believe that JFK represented the last best hope for American politics and society, this is the book for you. It describes—through allegorical characters worthy of an Eisenstein film—the coming together of people, forces, and ideas that resulted in the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, and the assassination in Dallas. The story begins in 1963 with girl reporter Mary Springer’s introduction to big-league journalism at a White House press conference. Mary works for the Belvedere Blade in backwoods Maryland. Ordinarily, she’d be covering Rotary conventions and supermarket dedications, but on her first trip to the White House she manages to get a question answered by the President and goes on to become his confidante in a small way. An urban renewal project in Belvedere has become the object of black protests, you see, and Kennedy needs someone to tell him the truth about what’s happening. Springer and her photographer sidekick Jay Broderick cover the protests, which brings them into contact with Donald Johnson, a black creative-writing student at Georgetown who serves as one of the protest organizers. Johnson, highly educated and urbane, knows he can pass in white society but doesn’t feel comfortable putting his roots behind him. Springer (unhappily married as the result of a shotgun wedding) and Broderick (unhappily alcoholic) begin an unhappy affair that ends in tragedy. Johnson becomes more and more militant in his demand for justice—with tragic results. And JFK himself, whose interior monologues are interpolated throughout the story, comes to a tragic end in Dallas, in case you didn’t know. Sophomoric and hackneyed: a formulaic plot inhabited by formulaic characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-944072-96-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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