Beneath all the busy trimmings, though, it's just another reworking of your basic self-reflexive parody incest opera...

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WATCH YOUR MOUTH

Handler follows up his waggish debut (The Basic Eight, 1999) with an even more pungent fricassee: a summer's romance turned incestuous and murderous, cast in the form of an opera followed, naturally, by a 12-step recovery program.

Not that Joseph Last Name Changed to Protect the Innocent, as he refers to himself, has anything that outré in mind. What he expects when he signs on as assistant arts and crafts counselor to his girlfriend Cynthia Glass is a placid summer finishing up his junior-year incompletes in the time off from commuting between suburban Pittsburgh's Camp Shalom by day and Cynthia's enthusiastic bed by night. Oh, he's willing to vary the routine via the woods around Camp Shalom, the back of Cyn's car, and the occasional vertical bonk. What he's not willing to countenance is an incestuous streak that guarantees you'll never confuse this Glass family with J.D. Salinger's. Dad and Mom ("call me Mimi") lust respectively after their daughter and son, and young Ben pines for his big sis. The Glasses don't just pine either, as Joseph acknowledges every night when Cyn leaves his damp bed for her father's. Fortunately for Cyn's grandmother, the old lady dies before confessing any desire she might have to repossess her own flesh. The rest of the Glasses follow more violently, falling victim one by one to somebody the cops in Pittsburgh, California (don't ask), think is Joseph and Joseph thinks is the golem Mimi was building in her basement. No jest is too broad (Mimi's physician is named Dr. Zhivago), no simile too indecorous for Joseph's desperately coy unfolding of his summer of discontent and its sequel, as self-satisfied allusions from Kafka to Nabokov to Bill W. jostle for recognition.

Beneath all the busy trimmings, though, it's just another reworking of your basic self-reflexive parody incest opera mystery. About average for the genre.

Pub Date: July 21, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-20940-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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