A well-written, intriguing sports tale that explores the importance of home base.

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EAGLES AND HAWKS AND ALSO PEOPLE AS WELL

A college baseball player struggles with his faith and sense of belonging when he transfers schools in this literary novel.

After his recovery from Tommy John surgery, college pitcher Vincenzo “Enzo” Prinziatta hopes to catch the attention of pro scouts. But when his 2015 junior year at State University of New York New Paltz passes without any offers, Enzo turns his attention to Cortland, a star in the SUNY Athletic Conference that’s known for its fan-friendly rituals. Enzo is reluctant to exit New Paltz; he’s a big fish in a small pond, and he’s leaving behind his family, his friend and catcher Lakewood “Semzy” Semend, and his girlfriend, Shannon Hestian, softball player and model. Not only that, Shannon is pregnant, and Enzo or his frenemy Barry Budski may be the father. Enzo also struggles with belief; he’s become rededicated to Roman Catholicism, but he’s disturbed to learn that his father lost his faith while dying painfully. What it comes down to, Enzo tells his adviser Father Pann, is that he wants his chance to play pro ball someday: “Beyond that, I think I want to find some place where it feels like home.” Enzo makes the switch from the New Paltz Hawks to the Cortland Eagles and heads to Cortland Summer Camp to prepare for his senior season. But his longing for order is upset by the Eagles’ strange hazing rituals, which leave him off balance—especially the contributions of Trudy Booth, the team’s Chinese-Taiwanese-American fellowship counselor, who spouts New Age–y slogans while stretching alluringly in skintight clothing. She’s also the coach’s wife. Enzo endures it all in the name of fitting in, but can he find a home at Cortland? Enzo is a thoughtful athlete reminiscent of Henry “Author” Wiggen in Mark Harris’ quartet of baseball novels, most notably Bang the Drum Slowly (1956). But Marcopolos (Womyn Do: The Healing of JOHNNY R3BEL, 2016, etc.) offers a postmodern twist. The mysterious keeps taking prominence in this novel: the hazing rituals, which are amusing, sexy, confusing, and disturbing all at once; the hard-to-figure attitudes of Enzo’s teammates; oddities like a replica of the Winchester Mystery House that somehow features a pagan mechanical bull ride; Trudy’s oracular pronouncements; and portentous dreams and symbols involving several dead birds and brick-tied balloons that a teammate pops. Each image speaks of death and aborted flight, a counterpoint to Enzo’s longing for the big leagues and a home that isn’t stifling. Also complex is Enzo’s character. He wants to do the right thing, is compassionately moved by the plight of a boy with a harsh father, but is a self-admitted “douchebag” to Shannon and considers standing up to a sexist teammate’s “joke” to be a fight not worth having. It’s a bit too convenient, however, when Enzo and Shannon’s baby is stillborn—another popped balloon and one that prevents Enzo from having to truly grapple with the consequences of his actions, marriage, or fatherhood.

A well-written, intriguing sports tale that explores the importance of home base.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9862428-7-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Kykeon Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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