Mixing the lighthearted with the dire, this family story makes for a brief though nuanced look at the human condition.

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GABRIEL, THE TRAINING OF AN ANGEL

 A debut novella presents the angel Gabriel’s memoir.

As Gabriel explains at the beginning of his story, he has been sent to Earth by God to “inform humankind as a herald.” And though his most famous task involves “the news of Christ’s imminent coming to Earth,” this tale focuses on speaking with a family in Pennsylvania. Gabriel comes to Earth in 2015 in the form of a teenage girl named Debbie. She has been hired as an extra pair of hands at Jonathan Hanson’s fifth birthday party in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Everything is fine until Jon’s sister disappears. She is later discovered dead; she managed to suffocate while playing among some construction materials. What is an angel to do? Following a discussion with God in heaven, Gabriel returns to Earth, this time as a 78-year-old man named Dave Kryzinsky. His goal is to insert himself into Jon’s life. From there, he fulfills his mission as Jon’s guardian, seeking to further understand humanity’s plight. Of course getting to know a grieving boy and his family, especially in the form of an aged and apparently penniless stranger, is no easy task. Depicting a playful and at times cantankerous Gabriel (don’t even bother to try to get him to eat turkey on Thanksgiving), Miles’ story is a mixture of the fun and the serious. A young girl dies after all and it is hardly the only tragedy that will strike her family. Nevertheless, God is in control and it is a fact even Gabriel must learn to comprehend despite the pain he sees around him. Although aspects of the angel’s personality can be a little too cute (he does like his pastries), he ultimately becomes a memorable figure. While Gabriel’s human feelings are not so wild as to get him into too much trouble (he certainly doesn’t lust after anyone as either Debbie or Dave), his character provides insight into the difficulties and failings of mortals.

Mixing the lighthearted with the dire, this family story makes for a brief though nuanced look at the human condition.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: B0747RQ11M

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

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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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