Keenly observed and lyrical, an evocative collection with emotional heft.



Dent’s (English/Susquehanna Univ.) debut story collection explores the lives of a handful of characters living along Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Several of Dent’s characters are rudderless women navigating young adulthood. In “At the Mouth,” a young woman who had been living with her grandmother before she died is now haunted by the old woman’s religious mania as she explores her own burgeoning sexuality. In “Hold My Hand,” a teenage girl and her brother struggle through childhood with an inept father, only to wander together into the underworld of methamphetamine production. Dent has a penchant for evoking an ethereal world, but she keeps her narratives firmly planted in the everyday realities of her often marginalized characters while she explores the socioeconomic and racial barriers that keep them bound, as if by an evil spell. “Wheels” invites readers to experience the fallout of a drunken hit-and-run in a community that wants desperately to exonerate the privileged girl who committed the crime, despite the feelings of the heartbroken working-class family who lost its young child. “The Truth You Know” lays bare the culture of a slum apartment building as the lives of the careworn tenants collide. Dent’s capacity to cover epic sweeps of time in fairly short pieces is remarkable. “The Hole At Backyard Park” follows two twins from their childhood into their older years, as they prepare to reunite after several decades of estrangement. When the twins observe their mother, who had kept herself busy with voluntary service during WWII, after the war has ended, Dent writes in his typically minimalistic and powerful prose: “[S]he also grew smaller and less clear. First her mole disappeared. Then her smile left. Then she seemed to fade into her naps, and the sternness left her eyes.”

Keenly observed and lyrical, an evocative collection with emotional heft.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-937677-62-6

Page Count: 247

Publisher: Fomite

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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