Evocative stuff, sure; but unlike her celebrated Athenian models, Estill never makes it clear what human reality is being...

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EVENING WOULD FIND ME

First-novelist Estill’s fatal romantic triangle aims for Greek tragedy but produces Greek watercolors instead.

Grieving the loss of the mother who took ill during her last year of college, Sylvia Harris, who can’t stay in the same place as her memories, has ended up in Athens. Even more haunting memories arrive, however, on the wing of Althea Melas, the beautiful, schizophrenic wife of painter Aristides Melas, from the moment Sylvia meets her in the National Gardens. Sylvia’s matter-of-fact acceptance of Althea despite her madness ironically throws her together with Ari, and eventually, after token resistance, into his bed. Divorcing Althea is out of the question, Ari maintains, though it isn’t certain whether that’s because he still loves her or because he’s afraid of the wealthy and powerful family who concealed her malady from him until after his wedding. And giving Sylvia up is equally impossible. So the ill-starred trio drift through a series of picture-postcard backdrops—punctuated by Sylvia’s gently lacerating memories of her mother and her continued fascination with her late father’s acquaintance, celebrated Death Row inmate Dr. Sam Sheppard—as the lovers slowly acknowledge that Althea, whose near presence seems to hover like a benediction over their couplings, does indeed understand, along with virtually everyone else they meet, what’s going on between them. Althea stuns them by announcing that she’s pregnant; a boating accident leaves the three of them adrift; a cousin’s wedding Althea insists on attending has inevitably fatal results. Yet all three sides of the loving triangle, especially Althea, remain inscrutable, screened by dazzling Greek landscapes, even during the most vividly rendered scenes.

Evocative stuff, sure; but unlike her celebrated Athenian models, Estill never makes it clear what human reality is being evoked.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-86538-098-8

Page Count: 175

Publisher: Ontario Review

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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