Heaven trivialized as a pop-culture paradise without evident irony—a hellish idea.

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EARTHLY PLEASURES

In newcomer Neches’s cutesy take on the afterlife, Jonathan Livingston Seagull ranks right up there with the Bible and Aristotle; the Supreme Being sounds like Bette Midler; and bathroom functions, but not sex, have been eliminated.

In this heavenly hierarchy new souls like pretty, blond Skye Sebring start out as greeters, then usually spend a stretch as guardian angels before earning their first life on earth. So imagine Skye’s surprise at the Hospitality annual awards banquet when she is chosen to live on earth. Scared, Skye takes a prep course in which she learns that all she needs is Beatles lyrics to prosper. Meanwhile, down on earth, handsome Atlanta lawyer and presidential offspring Ryan Blaine attempts to adjust to the changes he’s noticed in his wife since her own near-death experience a year earlier. Susan had been a veterinarian, a classy, beautiful blond with whom he shared a magical sex life. Since her near fatal car accident, Susan has no affinity for animals, adores Johnny Cash (is that so bad?) and reads gossip magazines. Plus the sex stinks. Ryan sticks by his wife hoping she’ll snap out of it, but new Susan is really Emily, Susan’s skanky separated-at-birth twin. When Susan had gone to meet her without Ryan’s knowledge, Emily beat her, robbed her and left her for dead, before cracking up her car. The real Susan has been lying in a coma in a nursing home in Birmingham. Now awakened, she has no memory of her old life. Back in heaven, Skye learns she is not really a new soul, but an old soul in limbo, i.e. Susan. The Supreme Being has made getting Susan’s earth life happily resolved a top priority—no wonder things haven’t been going better in Iraq.

Heaven trivialized as a pop-culture paradise without evident irony—a hellish idea.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9248-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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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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