Acclaimed historical novelist Vernon (Peter Doyle, 1991, etc.) re-creates the story of real-life Baby Doe Taborsilver-miner, upwardly mobile ``loose woman,'' wife of the richest miner in 19th- century Colorado. Born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in the late 1850s, Baby McCourt grows up beautiful and pampered, with a sensual nature. As a teen, she dreams of dancing on stage and wins the local skating contest; later, she goes on to marry Harvey Doe and move to Colorado, where she gets written up in the newspaper as the first woman to actually work in a mine. Eventually, Baby leaves drunkard Harvey, though, and gleefully takes a string of lovers, matter-of-factly noting their bedroom prowess, or lack thereof. Then she snags immense, smelly Horace ``Haw'' Tabor (``His thick hairy body inspired disgust, but disgust made Baby...amorously inclined''), the wildly rich owner of multiple mines. By unscrupulous means, Haw and Baby discard their spouses and throw a gaudy wedding attended by President Chester Arthur. Over the years, the two flaunt the trappings of their seemingly limitless wealthwith showy accessories including two daughters, Cupid and Silver Dollar, wolfhound puppies, and peacocks on the lawn. But Haw dies broke, Silver meets her own horrible end, and Baby lives to cantankerous old age in a filthy shack by the shaft of one of their mines under the beneficent care of a hobo named Sue. Through it all, though Vernon's surefooted, free-associative prose often dazzles, the effect is of an exotic spectacle rather than a resonant drama: The characters, their bodily sensations, and vaguely conceived desires are conveyed vividly, as is the dirty, dangerous, greed-inspiring Colorado landscape, but the pain of their losses is rendered much more elliptically than their conquests and triumphs. A high-color portrait that's viscerally powerful but emotionally flat.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80371-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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.


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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