An epic portrayal of a romance born out of the rubble of World War II.




A stirring historical novel that plumbs the depths of war for the possibilities of love.

Bruce (Voices in the Wind, 2015) sets her latest novel in the Soviet Union during World War II. Elena Nevskaya is a complex protagonist: a committed Communist, a devout Christian, and, despite her love of Russia, a political dissident who’s contemptuous of Bolshevism. Snatched from university life to serve as a medic in a war that’s already killed her husband and brother, she’s quickly forced to confront the bleakness of her circumstances. She witnesses unspeakable carnage and struggles with her simmering hatred for German invaders: “Yes, I did want my country to destroy the Germans. Yes, I did want the injured to live. But at what cost to me?” Transferred to a hospital on the front, and crushed by disillusionment, she rescues a wounded Nazi clinging to life. Although moved by sympathy to help him, she’s initially overwhelmed by disgust, seeing him as a personification of Nazi ideology. But Friedrich Halder turns out to be a university man, as well as a deserter who was conscripted into service in order to avoid being sent to a concentration camp. What improbably ensues is a mutual recognition of each other’s humanity, a kind of truce, and then the kindling of a romance. For fans of historical fiction or romance, this is a deft combination of the two genres, written in a wise, often poetical prose. The overall tale is dark and catalogs the murky depths of human depravity, but despite the realistic grittiness of its portrayal of war, it’s thankfully leavened by considerable doses of humor and hope. At its core, it’s a story about an attempt to maintain one’s humanity while witnessing, and even participating in, stark inhumanity. Elena and Friedrich fall in love, and in doing so, each concedes the other’s value.

An epic portrayal of a romance born out of the rubble of World War II.

Pub Date: April 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1329045941

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Merriam Press

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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