AMONG US WOMEN

Three women survive love and loss in Lerner’s debut novel, set in the tumultuous years from 1987 to 1992.

In alternating chapters, Lerner presents the interconnected stories of Rose, Jane and Eva. Rose, a lapsed Catholic who, at 58, deals with her mixed emotions regarding the death of her husband and her daughter’s unwanted pregnancy. Jane, meanwhile, reels from her husband’s shocking announcement soon after she finds that she’s pregnant for the first time at 37. In turn, African-American Eva, 38, admits her affair with a white married man. The narrative quickly reveals the connections among these three very different women; college friends Jane and Eva are partners at an interior design firm in Sag Harbor, and Rose meets Jane at the firm while seeking items to use in her work creating miniature houses. Eventually Rose convinces Jane to join her in protesting the abortions occurring at a local women’s clinic—one Eva designed. Throughout, the women struggle with their relationships with their husbands and boyfriends, as well as their personal views on religion, women’s rights and fertility. While the trio’s heated conflicts and emotional turmoil generally ring true, at times the plot feels overstuffed, with the inclusion of so many touchstones of the era—HIV/AIDS, in vitro pregnancy, abortion, sexual harassment—squeezed into the pages. Packed with realistic dialogue, minimal descriptions and present-tense narration, the book reads more like a screenplay than a novel, which underscores its drama. One notable exception to the normally staccato prose is the description of Rose’s home studio, which Lerner lovingly details. The periodic mentions of news events such as the Challenger explosion and the Anita Hill hearings help ground the novel solidly in its time period, along with smaller events, such as Jane not allowing someone with AIDS to hug her child because of the fear of infection. Unfortunately, it’s not until the last third of the book, when a serious life-and-death situation causes the women to act and not just react, that the novel begins to feel cohesive and compelling. An overwrought tale steeped in the major feminist concerns of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

 

Pub Date: June 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1439228807

Page Count: 361

Publisher: BookSurge

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2012

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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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