A methodical, convincing story of political upheaval.

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NEVER AGAIN

America’s refusal to take in thousands of Israeli refugees incites national tumult in Schwartz’s (On a Barge in France, 2016) thriller.

After an atomic bomb devastates Tel Aviv, two ships filled with Israeli refugees arrive at Boston Harbor. But the U.S. bars their entrance, partly due to the more recent bombing in Damascus, which most presume was Israel’s retaliation to Tel Aviv. Tensions escalate when rocket-propelled grenades—from both ships—hit Coast Guard vessels and result in casualties. When refugees subsequently flee, U.S. President Lawrence Quaid ultimately declares them enemy combatants to be caught and held in a detention camp. American Jews, such as lawyer Ben Shapiro, are shocked by what has all the markings of another Holocaust. In apparent response, allegedly Jewish suicide bombers kill numerous citizens. But Shapiro eventually crosses paths with a group that may be even more dangerous. Debra Reuben, the last surviving member of the Israeli Prime Minister’s cabinet, and Chaim Levi of the Israeli Defense Forces concoct a plan that could entail detonating a nuclear device on American soil. Much of Schwartz’s story is topical. For example, the U.S. ostracizes immigrants by issuing Americards, identification for proving citizenship and ensuring that employers don’t hire those without one. The author skillfully captures the country’s political turmoil. As citizens debate accepting refugees, Boston’s Haitian community opposes it since it would indicate favoritism to “white illegals.” The novel doesn’t take an overt stand on immigration. Quaid, for one, doesn’t display signs of villainy (despite some people’s equating him to Hitler) in that his decisions aren’t based on malice. While the novel is predominantly stark and serious, it’s occasionally wry, like when a character notes that it’s not hard to quickly source materials for an explosive device: “Not in modern America. Not with next-day delivery from Amazon.”

A methodical, convincing story of political upheaval.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63393-733-8

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2018

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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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