A first novel (``rescued from the slush pile,''we're told) with attitude to spare but nothing else: the story of a self- absorbed, self-destructive woman who screws up her life only to be saved by a good man. Like many of her contemporary literary peers, 30-year-old Eleanor Shank, commonly known as Bean, has a long list of people to blame for the mess she's in. Naturally, it begins with Mom, a promiscuous lush, and Dad, a surly authoritarian. Nothing really tragic has happened to Bean, but the scale of injury or awareness of a world beyond her navel is not important as she decides to find herself by leaving Boston and heading west. Bean's traveling light, but with lots of emotional baggage: She's just ended a long affair with an unfaithful alcoholic; she's never gotten over her parents' divorce or her stepfather's death; and along the way, she's also had two abortions. Bean takes a camera on the trip (she has vague ambitions of becoming a photographer) and, straining to be cool and witty, tells her own story with strident verve, alternating memories of the past with accounts of the actual journey and of the menall bad choicesshe's slept with. Her first stop is Richmond, Virginia, where she visits Dad, whom she blames for much of her unhappiness; then en route to Albuquerque she meets up with an old high-school crush, Joe, who's gay. In Tucson, she quarrels with her mother, who's sleeping with Ricky, Bean's old boyfriend. In El Paso, she moves in with Ash, who might be the father of the child she discovers she's carrying. Finally, she ends up in Oregon, helping Joe run his coffee shop while waiting for the baby's birth. A marriage proposal and a place to show her photos make up for all the previous messy living. A one-dimensional take on a terminally self-preoccupied woman.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8118-1989-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998

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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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