A colorful but somewhat unconvincing novel of impulse and delusion.

STALKER STALKED

A woman with obsessive tendencies becomes the object of someone else’s obsession in Goldberg’s thriller.

Lexi Mazur is a pharmaceutical rep with a pill addiction and a fondness for vodka. She’s just been dumped by her boyfriend, Steve, who’d gotten wise to the fact that she’s been spying on him to make sure he hasn’t been cheating. Now she has little to do in her spare time other than sit around her Queens apartment with her cat, Sammi, and watch reality television shows. Her new favorite is Socialites, which follows a group of rich “frenemies” as they navigate New York City high society. She quickly becomes engrossed by the show’s star, Magnolia Artois, in whom Lexi sees some combination of role model and kindred spirit. She starts to stalk Magnolia on social media, commenting on all her posts, and then starts showing up in person at the show’s filming locations. Magnolia doesn’t react to Lexi’s fandom the way that Lexi wants her to, however, which forces the single-minded woman to escalate things a bit. Then something unexpected happens: Lexi attracts a stalker of her own. “I heard a rustling.…A shadow materialized, stalked away with a scraping sound against the dirt.” At first, Lexi is strangely turned on by it, but then the watcher becomes increasingly intrusive—and threatening, as when she receives a profanity-laden phone call from a restricted number: “I WILL GUT YOU….I’LL SCATTER YOUR BODY PARTS ALL OVER NEW YORK CITY.” But who could it be? Steve? Jeremy, the ex-boyfriend whom she alienated with her extreme behavior? Pria, her longtime best friend, whom Lexi suspects has a secret crush on her? Or is it Magnolia herself?

As Lexi continues in a pill-fueled haze, the lines between stalker and stalked, friend and frenemy, and reality and reality TV become increasingly blurred. Goldberg’s prose, as narrated by the protagonist, is snarky and slightly frenetic in tone: “I found solace when I got home in a pint of ice cream with broken up my blue heavens and a vodka chaser,” begins one chapter, referencing the blue pills that Lexi pops constantly. Another starts off, “Even though I wanted to head home and ooze into the couch watching reality TV, I needed to sell some drugs.” Parts of the novel are quite engrossing. The book is darkly comic, satirizing a number of contemporary institutions—big pharma, reality TV, social media celebrity—while pulling the reader into more transgressive territory involving sex, addiction, violence, and mental illness. However, the author seems to ultimately have very little to say about any of these topics. Also, almost nothing about the story feels terribly believable; its events are slightly too heightened, and Lexi’s thoughts seem slightly too well-organized considering her chaotic lifestyle. The subject matter is so serious on its face—and often in the story, which is not purely a comedy—that Lexi’s characterization feels gratuitous, akin to the shows she loves, which often seem to be messy-for-messy’s-sake.

A colorful but somewhat unconvincing novel of impulse and delusion.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Down & Out Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY

Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more