Intriguing wartime tale well-told and cleverly plotted in an authentic historical setting.

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A Tale of Life & War

A college student learns respect from a military veteran in author Morin’s debut novel.

At the University of Maine at Orono, procrastinating senior Matthew Switzer struggles to write a paper on the American GI experience in Europe. Michelle Kessler, an attractive coed, suggests he meet with her grandfather Henry “Hank” Mitchell, a former lieutenant and fighter pilot in the Army Air Forces during World War II. Initially, Matt asks some rather inappropriate questions—How many Germans did you kill? How many of your friends were killed in combat? What was it like to see your friends die?—that offend Hank: “This isn’t research,” he says, “it’s just plain disrespectful, morbid curiosity from a child who has no more concept of that time period than a garden slug!” After admonishing Matt, Hank tells of his participation in a top-secret mission in May 1944, one that took him over the English Channel into occupied France to destroy enemy targets, including a Nazi bunker. Hank and his fellow recruits had doubts about the poorly conceived mission; crew members weren’t even allowed escape kits in case they were stranded behind enemy lines. After crashing, Hank was welcomed by kindly French farmers, the Tessiers, who hid him from the Germans in Jolieville, Normandy. Eventually, Hank was captured and interrogated by SS officer Steinert, a self-declared British double agent who facilitated Hank’s escape into hiding with the LeBlanc family: lovely Pauline and her three brothers, all dedicated members of the French Resistance. As the weeks passed, Pauline and Hank grew closer, but he distrusted Steinert, who pumped him for details about the Allied invasion. This stirring wartime account of the impending D-Day features solid dialogue and careful plotting, an exciting air battle sequence, and effective use of period detail, as with, in a pivotal scene, a phonograph loudly playing “The Flying Dutchman” by Richard Wagner, a favorite composer of the Third Reich. Matt’s pre-graduation jitters as he moves from disrespect to admiration provide an entree to the past. But this is Hank’s story, tangled as it was with Steinert’s, whose psyche was split by conflicting loyalties. As sole survivor of a top-secret military mission, Hank found himself in the unenviable position of being distrusted by the Allies, an unfortunate coda for his sacrifice and service.

Intriguing wartime tale well-told and cleverly plotted in an authentic historical setting.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-63381-006-8

Page Count: 571

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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