A powerful, beguiling literary cocktail of laughter and disgust, empathy and hatred.




In Manning’s novel, a man finds himself homeless on the streets of Brooklyn as he attempts to escape his past life in Beijing.

To say that Alex is down on his luck is an understatement. As the story opens, he spreads his last $768 across the bed of his rented room and anticipates “bottoming out.” With a stack of monthly bills unpaid, he realizes that something needs to change. But things get worse when he botches a search for cheaper accommodations and ends up homeless. Salvation comes in the form of Pope John Paul Roman Catholic Church, where he discovers a crawl space that becomes his new home while he searches for work and connections with others. He is, however, socially awkward, particularly around women, and he easily develops unhealthy crushes. The novel flips back and forth between his struggles in Brooklyn and events of the previous year, which he spent working for a software company in China. His role there was to help “Americanize” the company’s employees, and by night, he delved deep into Beijing’s sordid underworld. The novel seems to urge readers to root for the present-day Alex while also highlighting the nagging disparity between the man he was in Beijing and the blundering wreck he’s become. Debut author Manning writes with all the fluidity and poise of a seasoned author. His narrative is matter-of-fact yet acute in its observations and delightfully accessible: “There is something special about that end of Brooklyn. It’s a strange corner of the world: warehouses, junkyards, monstrous trucks rolling by, weeds rupturing the curb. Dystopian, groaning garbage trucks. Toy-sized humans driving super machines—thriving at the edge of the planet.” A gut-wrenching, entirely unexpected plot twist highlights Manning’s masterful skill as a storyteller. This tour de force captures the intimidating hubbub and toil of two very different cities along with the precarious nature of urban realities. Overall, it’s an unsteadying novel that will cause readers to reassess their perceptions of others and question the limits of their compassion.

A powerful, beguiling literary cocktail of laughter and disgust, empathy and hatred.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 284

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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