An often intriguing story, despite a few too many plot elements, that shows the disparate ways that speech therapy can help...


Speaking in Tungs

In Jay’s debut novel, a speech therapist moves to the small town of Tungston, Pennsylvania—locally known as “Tungs”—and finds colorful characters and a little mystery.

At 24, Marleigh Benning’s life is in upheaval: after the sudden death of her mother and father, she discovers they weren’t actually her biological parents. It turns out that she was adopted at the age of 2, and all she knows now are her biological parents’ names and her own original birthplace: Tungs. Impulsively, she pulls up stakes in California and moves to the tiny town, pursuing her ongoing dream of helping people with speech problems. Her patients are a motley crew, such as raspy-voiced Ivory, who won’t stop gossiping long enough to let her vocal cords rest; Luella, who lives with her sister, Margritte, in a trailer full of chickens, trying to avoid another bout of aspiration pneumonia; and Melvin, whose ability to speak was twisted by a stroke and who now can only curse. Another patient, Casey, is a little boy who’d rather act like a dog and babble nonsense than speak to his frustrated mother, who isn’t thrilled by Marleigh’s fix-it attitude. There’s also Beryl Holmes, a cantankerous veteran who refuses to work with Marleigh when she accidentally lets his beloved (and deaf) dog loose. As if all this wasn’t enough, police are seeking a fugitive in the area, there have also been wolf sightings of late, and Marleigh is falling for hunky local fireman Lawyer Hunt—or possibly local doctor Parker York. Marleigh’s patients come across as three-dimensional people, and the details of her speech therapy work are fascinating, aided as they are by Jay’s real-life years in the field. Other aspects of the novel, however, are a little lackluster. Both the romance and the mystery seem unnecessary, for example. It also doesn’t seem plausible that Marleigh wouldn’t immediately start searching for information about her birth parents—particularly when it’s the primary reason for her move.

An often intriguing story, despite a few too many plot elements, that shows the disparate ways that speech therapy can help people regain their voices.

Pub Date: May 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9961950-6-5

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Hedgehog & Fox

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 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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