A pleasant, sprawling story that details an admirable life but needs a more focused plot.

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THE LIFE THAT SITS BESIDE YOU

A New York City teacher sustains a long-term relationship with a French doctor over several decades in this novel.

Brooklyn-born Adina Saville discovered back in junior high school that two of her friends shared the same birthday with her and were born in the same hospital. The astonishing coincidence is repeated several times, with a New York University friend and even one of Adina’s doctors. During a semester abroad at the Sorbonne, she finds that a Swedish friend also has the same birthday and joins this close-knit group. Something else changes in Paris, though, as Adina meets Tristan, a physician who becomes her long-distance partner over many years. Back in New York, Adina works as a French teacher at the Dalton School, a prestigious Manhattan institution. The group of friends, all of whom have first names that start with the letter A, meets semiregularly. (“They believed in signs and thought there was certainly some divine intervention that had eventually brought them all together.”) Well-liked at work, happy in her Upper East Side one-bedroom apartment, and content spending summers with Tristan in France, Adina eschews marriage and kids. Some of her friends question that decision, but her biggest battle comes when Adina receives a breast cancer diagnosis, which becomes the hardest challenge of her life. Cohen has an intriguing premise for her enjoyable novel and is consistently upbeat in the way she characterizes the life and times of Adina’s unique circle of friends. The author is similarly unwavering in describing the breast cancer fight and the remarkable dedication to Tristan over so much time. But this is a lengthy story, and covering a lifetime of news and events among so many characters eventually becomes unwieldy. Cohen delivers updates rather than having one main plotline that forms the emotional core of the tale.

A pleasant, sprawling story that details an admirable life but needs a more focused plot.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72683-403-2

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2020

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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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