An existential revenge story offering a confession that doesn’t beg forgiveness.



A former torture expert decides to walk the circumference of the Earth from the comfort of his own backyard.

In a drier outing than one might expect from an authority on social satire, Nicholson (The London Complaint, 2016, etc.) explores the complicated consequences of a life spent in the business of torment. Our protagonist is Joe Johnson, a trained psychotherapist who has spent years in the service of “the Team,” a covert government agency that hired him to teach its operatives to resist torture. He’s recently resigned and, in the wake of a divorce from his wife, Carole, is adrift. Buying a small house a few hours north of London, Joe commits to walking 25 miles a day for 1,000 days to complete a circumnavigation of the planet, except that he’s not leaving his backyard. “I may not have been conspicuously, demonstrably happy, but I definitely wasn’t unhappy,” Joe says. “I was content with my life, taking pleasure in small things, and in the much larger thing of walking around the world.” But Joe’s backyard gets to be an increasingly crowded place with visits from nosy neighbors, a philosophical mailman, some local riff raff who start a trivial war with Joe, and a curious child. He finds solace in the company of a personal assistant, Miranda, an aspiring bartender who plies Joe with her experimental cocktails. Unfortunately, Joe’s unusual hobby attracts the attention of the local press and a would-be filmmaker, thrusting him into public view. For a man who has trespassed against so many souls, the past is never far behind, and the consequences of Joe’s actions soon come calling. It’s a strange book, not quite a thriller and yet oddly contemplative about the human condition, capturing the perpetual unease of a world seemingly forever at war with itself.

An existential revenge story offering a confession that doesn’t beg forgiveness.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944700-36-2

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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.


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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