Editorial carelessness notwithstanding, laughs and warnings abound for straight single women.

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THE UNEXPECTED CONNECTION

Levin debuts her first novel, an exploration of the dating scene from the perspectives of two single women at very different stages of their lives.

During a hiatus between jobs, and freshly out of a relationship with her boyfriend, Vanessa, who’s in her 30s, visits her grandmother in Florida. Sitting by the pool, she meets Michelle, a widow in her 60s, and they strike up a conversation about the perils of dating. Michelle mentions she has been working on a book about her adventures and, more often, misadventures meeting men after the death of her husband. Over the course of the next week or so, Michelle shares portions of her work with Vanessa, and they discuss its progression. The journal, narrated by Michelle, becomes a book within a book, each chapter prefaced and followed by Vanessa’s commentary, which includes short descriptions of some of her own failed romantic escapades. Gradually, the women conclude that contemporary dating is similarly crappy for women of any age. Michelle assigns a variety of monikers to her dates, many of whom sound like egocentric adolescents. There’s “The Squeezer,” “The Groper,” and, not to be forgotten, “Panties Man,” a clod who, on their first date, thought it would be enticing for Michelle to go to the restaurant’s bathroom and remove her underwear. The author takes readers down a long trail littered with “clueless” men behaving badly. It’s an interesting, sometimes depressing, and frequently funny journey. Unfortunately, the prose is inconsistent, with too many instances of awkward and clichéd phrasing, e.g., “After listening to all that Michelle had told me, hit me like a ton of bricks.” And the relationship between Vanessa and Michelle feels like a contrived narrative construct. Still, the compendium of cautions, pitfalls, and triumphs in the age of internet dating successfully communicates the author’s “message to men to respect women and for women in turn to respect themselves.”

Editorial carelessness notwithstanding, laughs and warnings abound for straight single women.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-4808-6860-1

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

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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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