Gentle humor and sharp observation couched in straightforward prose with none of the preening preciosity so often seen in...

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GIRLS IN TRUCKS

Wry, rueful tales of a Southern debutante’s mostly disappointing love life.

The unifying motif of Crouch’s debut is the Charleston Cotillion Training School, where South Carolina girls and boys of a certain class are taught ballroom dance in preparation for the girls’ coming out parties. Prominent among the debutantes are the Camellias, a sorority of women whose mission is to “prepare their daughters for marriage to a decent man.” For Sarah Walters and her friends Bitsy, Charlotte and Annie, Camellia membership will mark their most permanent attachment; it seems that for latter-day debutantes there’s a shortage of decent men. The novel is comprised of linked short stories, some veering off into the equally problematic amours of peripheral characters including Sarah’s brilliant older sister Eloise and their mother. After college, Sarah moves to New York City seeking a writer’s life. While working lowly editorial positions, she rooms with Charlotte, a fledgling fashion designer who’s in and out of rehab. Sarah’s man-that-got-away is blue-blooded Max, who “made money with money.” His casual cruelty is not tempered by any redeeming appeal, and Sarah’s intractable obsession with him beggars belief. She attempts, vainly, to settle for guys from home, or guys she thought of as just friends but was holding in reserve as fallback lovers. Annie, who never leaves Charleston, survives a relationship with a feckless artist to find love and financial stability. Bitsy marries money, which is scant consolation for her husband’s callousness—his infidelities persist as she dies of cancer. Charlotte chooses first drugs, then entrepreneurial success, over relationships. Sarah, finding at 31 that she’s “missed [her] window” of opportunity with the fallback guys, has a child by an extremely casual acquaintance. By age 35 she’s accepted the fact that neither she nor the men in her life will ever measure up to debutante standards.

Gentle humor and sharp observation couched in straightforward prose with none of the preening preciosity so often seen in Southern fiction.

Pub Date: April 7, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-316-00211-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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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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