After this fine historical novel, it’s easy to predict new fans for Adams.

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Evangeline

THE SEER OF WALL ST.

A fanciful, fictional memoir of the real-life Evangeline Smith Adams, the most famous astrologer of the early 20th century.

Anyone who can predict the future should be able to write her own obituary. Adams, the astrologer, known as the “seer of Wall Street” for advising clients like J.P. Morgan, reportedly predicted her Nov. 10, 1932, demise earlier the same year. Adams, the author (The Seventh Ritual, 2009, etc.), pushes that prediction backward three decades to establish the primary tension driving his story—professional ambition versus the ticking clock. (The author has no familial relationship to the astrologer or her ancestors, U.S. presidents John and John Quincy.) The fiction closely follows fact and includes reprints of newspaper stories. In 1899, the 31-year-old Evangeline, unconventional and career-minded, cancels a wedding engagement; moves from Boston to New York to launch her astrology business; predicts the Windsor Hotel fire; gains notoriety; and sets up shop at Carnegie Hall. She later beats fortunetelling arrests in court; maintains a long-running relationship with an actress, playwright, and suffragist; and marries her young business manager, who propels her career via radio, books, and speeches to the pinnacle of fame and fortune. Mirroring Evangeline’s affinity for gaudy antiques, Adams has a penchant for piling up modifiers: “Hands rested aimlessly upon the 19th-century mahogany teapoy table, faces stared into the Italian Gilt Wood Grapevine mirror blankly, and mindless chatter took place around the Baroque ‘Putto Face’ cast iron wall fountain.” Whether such constructions enhance the story’s verisimilitude or detract from it depends on personal taste; they occur often but neither make nor break the story. Style aside, the story itself is intriguing, the pace is lively, and the pages turn quickly. The author infuses his characters with consistent personality traits, believable motives, and outlooks that are changed by events over decades. Most importantly, he gives Evangeline a fitting central quest: reconciling her confidence in the infallibility of the stars with her own life choices.

After this fine historical novel, it’s easy to predict new fans for Adams.

Pub Date: June 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9768375-7-2

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Credo Italia

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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