The tale’s circuitous, cryptic organization is daunting, but Lewis’s crisp, forthright style and arresting character...

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THE KING IS DEAD

A legacy of instability and alienation plagues two generations in this ruthlessly compact third outing by Lewis (Why the Tree Loves the Ax, 1999, etc.).

A tricky structure that involves leaps forward and backward in time and seemingly unrelated subplots eventually discloses connections between WWII hero and political functionary Walter Selby and his son Frank, a film actor whose burden of untold family secrets propels him into early retirement. The story’s first half depicts Walter’s infatuation with his eventual wife, beautiful, distractible Nicole Lattimore; his disillusioning tenure as aide to Tennessee’s manipulative governor; and Walter’s heartbroken discovery of Nicole’s infidelity, after which he shoots her to death and is sent to prison. The second half portrays Frank as a foster child (who takes the surname of his “new” parents the Cartwrights) raised with his younger sister Gloria in ignorance of their family’s past; a teenager obsessed with a seductive classmate (Kimmie Remington) on her way to becoming an irreversible paranoid schizophrenic; and a middle-aged divorced father whose buried energies are reawakened when aging film queen Lenore Riviere tempts him with a “riddling” story of a bastard prince’s moral quandary involving his betrayed father and adulterous mother (which is, incidentally, the source of Lewis’s title). There are also loosely related episodes featuring a murdered lottery winner and an itinerant Native American, and inexplicably, the full text of Casey Stengel’s testimony before Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver’s Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee. Lewis doesn’t pull all these materials together, but does create some smashing effects in his dénouement, as Frank travels to his dying father’s bedside seeking the answer to the “riddle” that embraces father and son alike: “Where does a man go, if he’s done wrong?”

The tale’s circuitous, cryptic organization is daunting, but Lewis’s crisp, forthright style and arresting character portraits lead toward a most satisfying payoff.

Pub Date: July 25, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-41417-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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