Affecting yet inspiring in its positivity.


Rising From the Mire


This collection of insightful, emotionally intuitive short stories by Grace succeeds in honoring the resilience of women around the world.

The female characters presented in these seven fictional stories hail from a broad range of backgrounds, yet they are united in their struggle against adversity. Their intensely private ordeals explore numerous scenarios, from a young woman’s battle against a degenerative disease to a mother’s attempt to reconnect with her daughter, who has returned from college. From deft character sketches, engaging and psychologically detailed narratives evolve. “A Sharp Mind” charts the physical deterioration of a woman with multiple sclerosis and the reactions of her family. This story in particular emphasizes the individual strength and determination of the remarkable characters found here: “I’m not a victim. I only have MS,” the narrator says. “I remember my quadriplegic uncle, immobile from a car accident. He’d been a world-class athlete. When I’d asked how he could stand being in a wheelchair he’d said, ‘Life is too sweet.’ ” Powerful and life-affirming, the narrative always captures the spirit of survival. “The Presence” is a story about a young girl being sent away to boarding school. Waving goodbye to her sisters, Sydney is bundled into the family’s Aston Martin. The ensuing journey maps the boundaries of trust between a mother and daughter. “The India Affair,” a story about a woman’s journey to Mumbai with a group of doctors, examines an outsider’s understanding of another culture, along with its inequalities and injustices. The author’s descriptive skills peak here, as she offers an evocative street-level view of the city: “There’s a swarm of two-tone, yellow and green rickshaws buzzing about, the drivers perpetually honking and swooping like disturbed bees.” “Leya’s Serengeti,” the story of a mother taking care of a dog her daughter purchased on a whim, further demonstrates the author’s stylistic versatility, as elegant prose is replaced with a more urgent stream-of-consciousness approach to reflect the psychology of emotional pressure. In its entirety, the collection is a delicate and thoughtful exploration of strength in suffering.

Affecting yet inspiring in its positivity. 

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5029-8372-5

Page Count: 56

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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