There are many loose threads, though the ending is a relatively happy one. To her credit, in the knots she does tie up,...



Four women become unlikely allies when chosen to take over an existing "Dirty Book Club” in Harrison's first novel for adults.

It’s easy to get a bit confused following the events of this novel. There are four present-day female characters of note and four ladies from the past (not dead, though it sometimes feels that way), and each of the eight women struggles with her relationships, so there's a lot to track. The location is the fictional Pearl Beach, California, and the nominal protagonist is M.J., who moves there in a huff after her promotion at a New York City magazine goes awry, though she tells herself—and others—that she moved to be with her boyfriend, Dan. Dan lives next door to Gloria Golden, one of the Dirty Book Club founders, who, when her husband dies, swiftly moves to Paris with the other founding members, fulfilling a 54-year-old promise and leaving behind a bevy of rituals and instructions for M.J. and three others: Addie, the sexually liberated cynic, Jules, the sweet Southern romantic, and Britt, the sharp-tongued but disillusioned wife/mother/realtor. Initially, the women are (at best) wary of each other, and Harrison is snarky toward all of them, giving much of the book a sharp feel that is sometimes funny but lacks the warmth that appears when the original members make an appearance—they're glimpsed through the notes they took after each of their book-club meetings and seem a very Ya-Ya bunch. But the modern women bond over their respective predicaments, a handful of high jinks, and a lot of talk about what one should expect from a romantic relationship and how friendship can potentially fill in the gaps.

There are many loose threads, though the ending is a relatively happy one. To her credit, in the knots she does tie up, Harrison avoids easy or expected solutions to complicated, adult situations.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9597-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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