A pleasant read, rich in cultural ethos, but with little character depth.

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IMPERFECT PAIRINGS

Townsend’s (Reel Life, 2012) second novel presents a portrait of two clashing cultures, embodied in the relationship between a career-minded American woman and a conflicted Italian man.

The novel depicts the tried-and-true themes of the New versus Old World, and pragmatism versus romance, through its main characters: Jamie, a driven woman who has found success in a man’s world, and Jack, her Italian lover who is torn between his American business and his family’s legacy. Jamie is a child of divorce, dogmatically anti-marriage and single-minded in her professional quest. Jack’s character is more interesting: Pressured to achieve success in America, he’s a beacon of hope for his bankrupt, haunted Italian family. However, his heart is in the old Italian ways, and he can’t escape his attachment to his family’s antiquated wine business. The opening chapters are set in Italy, where Jack brings Jamie as his date to his brother’s wedding; from the beginning, readers get a visceral look at Jack’s struggle to reconcile his feelings for his family with his life in America. The flowing prose is polished, but too easily glosses over moments that could offer more emotional heft. For example, readers experience Jamie’s attraction to Jack, but never his attraction to her, thus obscuring one of the driving forces of Jack’s character: his love for Jamie. Indeed, the third-person narration stays very close to Jamie throughout, but never reveals as much about her thoughts some readers might expect. Jamie is so emotionally blocked that without objective insight into her inner conflict readers may find her one-dimensional and unsympathetic.

A pleasant read, rich in cultural ethos, but with little character depth.

Pub Date: May 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0983791522

Page Count: 387

Publisher: Ripetta Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2013

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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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