A fine, magnetic debut novel.



Reclusive psychologist Kit Gillespie muses upon the death of his world-wandering longtime girlfriend Julia in Taylor's (Travel Light & Other Stories, 2013) debut novel.

On a train to Montreal, Kit sketches an attractive Asian woman whom he christens “Alice.” He’s finally taking a trip away from Ottawa after finding out that Julia drowned “up north.” She was an ESL teacher who sought assignments around the world while Kit worked as a “decent therapist—easy-to-talk-to and boring-to-be with.” He is also, as Julia called him, a “hermit” who didn’t even attend the wedding of good friend Alf in Scotland. In Montreal, Kit keeps sketching, a hobby that he never revealed to Julia, and also begins a relationship with cafe owner Louise, initially introducing himself under a different name. He crosses paths with “Alice,” who is actually Sally, a psychiatrist. Kit goes out to dinner with her but is spooked by her intense questioning. He returns to Ottawa to see his current patients; ruminate on his ongoing friendship with former patient Angela, who often probes him about Julia; and reread Julia’s letters, the only form of communication he had with her when they were apart. He sends some of these letters to Sally, which leads to intensive therapy sessions with her back in Montreal and new steps for Kit, including a trip to Scotland and possibly more travels to come. First-time novelist Taylor (Travel Light & Other Stories, 2013) brings a key character from his previous short story collection into this beautifully written first-person narrative that fits within the tradition of A Gesture Life and The Remains of the Day. While Julia drowned, it’s Kit who is truly underwater; Taylor creates a well-drawn portrait of this character’s struggle for self-awareness and expression, particularly in the scenes depicting Kit’s secret sketching and enjoyment of Ottawa parks. The description of Julia’s final journey late in the novel is a bit rushed and confusing, although it also serves, as do most details in this narrative, to show Kit’s shifting perspective.

A fine, magnetic debut novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1460262023

Page Count: 336

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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