A very entertaining, if disjointed, tale featuring an unconventional protagonist.


From A to Zoe


A quirky, charming novel about a struggling author who’s hit with two life-changing challenges at once.

Marie-Jo Fortis’ (Chainsaw Jane, 2013) zany book is equal parts murder mystery, romance novel, and cancer drama. The book centers on Zoe Zimmerman, a writer living in New York City who’s been fruitless in her attempts to get published. One day, while visiting her lover Marc (a gynecologist), he discovers a lump in her breast. He immediately expresses concern, and after a mammogram and follow-up biopsy, Zoe learns that she has breast cancer and must undergo chemo on top of the pre-existing chaos of her daily life. Luckily, Zoe recently landed a job as an associate editor at a Chancecastle Publishing where she edits “how-to’s,” self-help books, and other titles to help her handle her bills. However, in the middle of everything, the beloved head of the publishing company, Terry Chancecastle, is found murdered in her office and Zoe finds herself a suspect. Fortis perhaps tries to pack too many storylines into one book. However, her prose remains engaging and humorous throughout. Zoe is a particularly vivid, likable lead, and Fortis gives her a charming and odd sense of humor. For example, Zoe often describes her passion for writing: “For years I have made love to words. Some were in dire need of Cialis, so I sent them away and called back others....I am the Cuisinart mixing up the traits of friends and foes to invent new characters who, coincidentally, will remind the reader of Grandma Georgette, who always gets Christmas presents for her grandkids at the Salvation Army.”

A very entertaining, if disjointed, tale featuring an unconventional protagonist. 

Pub Date: July 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-39943-9

Page Count: 172


Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 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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