Poignant and lifelike, this book boldly examines a youth’s struggles with drug use.

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Enjoy My Misery

TRAPPED INSIDE MY MIND

From the Enjoy My Misery series , Vol. 1

A debut novel chronicles a mother-son relationship through difficult times.

The story begins in 1973 with a young girl named Maria Vareno. Not only is Maria’s family poor, but her father suffers from mental disorders. After he’s laid off from his job, Maria often comes home to find her father “screaming and crawling on the floor from his hallucinations.” Later, Maria finds some comfort in a relationship with the muscle car-driving Clint Michaels. The couple are barely out of school when they have their first son, James, in 1985. After having their second son and marrying, the two set out on their own. As the young family moves to a larger living space, the narration shifts to James. A talented athlete at a young age, he has great hopes for his future. Popular with girls in middle school and a top sports prospect in high school, he feels greatness should be well within his reach. As his parents’ marriage falls apart, however, he begins a downward spiral that seems to have no end. From smoking a few cigarettes with a group of bad kids to becoming a full-blown burnout (“Fuck school,” James says to himself), he seems ready to hit rock bottom. Quick paced and concise (“Very addicting; I usually couldn’t move from the relaxation,” James says of his experience with Percocet), the story mainly focuses on James and his many misadventures with drugs and the police. While his transition from regular kid to public menace is certainly swift, it is nevertheless believable. Much of James’ introspection leans toward the obvious (in the throes of his drug use, he wonders, “Why was I such a depressed young man—will this feeling ever go away?”). But he remains as real as any like-minded troubled youth in any American town. Absent any moralizing, Roberts’ tale leaves readers to draw their own conclusions about the unfortunate turns a life can take and the willingness (or lack thereof) individuals have to overcome them. Readers who see in James a familiar face are likely to find themselves following his story to its conclusion.   

Poignant and lifelike, this book boldly examines a youth’s struggles with drug use.

Pub Date: July 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5306-2629-8

Page Count: 236

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2016

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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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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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