An easy though sometimes meandering bildungsroman best suited for dudes into cars, girls and teenage defiance.

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The Little Bastards

Set in the 1950s, Lindsay’s first work of fiction follows the adolescence of Sonny Mitchell as he and his buddies get into trouble, tinker with cars and grow up bit by bit.

This coming-of-age novel set in Willamette, Ore., tours the physical, emotional and, most importantly, vehicular landscapes of the 1950s as seen by young narrator Sonny, who’s always flanked by his gang of pals. The crew never tires of living up to the name given to them by a local curmudgeon: “little bastards.” Spinning an easygoing American tale, Sonny wheels his way around a fairly charmed youth, working on farms, drooling after cars and girls, and listening to rock ’n’ roll. As he and his posse get older, they find themselves deeply obsessed with the hot rod and drag racing scenes, and much of the drama of the novel unfolds around souping up cars and competing with peers for the titles of fastest and flashiest—not that there’s too much action moving the plot forward. Rather, Lindsay prefers to ruminate repeatedly on the fun and freedom of being a hot-rodding, blue-collar boy in the ’50s, a nostalgia clearly close to his heart. Despite the lack of action, the prose is breezy, and the novel will interest readers who lived through the era, particularly car lovers and especially men. Indeed, Lindsay focuses heavily on masculinity, sometimes so much so that a whiff of misogyny seems near. The fact that Sonny has a sister is mentioned just twice, and the hormones rage unchecked; at one point, Sonny describes checking out a girl at the pool with his friends as “weighing and judging like it was a meat auction.”

An easy though sometimes meandering bildungsroman best suited for dudes into cars, girls and teenage defiance.

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1494356736

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2014

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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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