Tender yet mournful writing by a sharply observant poet.

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HURRICANE WARNING

POEMS

In his second book of poetry, Defibaugh explores love and loss and living with a disability.

Defibaugh began writing in his early teens, or roughly when he was confined to a wheelchair as a result of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. His debut collected 16 years’ worth of poetry, from his amateur beginnings to his later, more mature verse. This second book also deals with coming to terms with illness but with a greater sense of self-assuredness and poetic dexterity. The collection is divided into three parts—“Virginia Beach, 1990,” “Red Flags,” and “Broken Shells”—which underscore a coastal theme prevalent throughout. The collection opens at a point of innocence when the poem “Virginia Beach, 1990” offers a tableau of a small child making sand castles: “She’s flipping over / a fifteen-cent sand bucket, / her first real castle, / hastily constructed under / a flimsy yellow sun.” In a nod to imagism, Defibaugh deftly captures a fleeting and serene moment in the child’s life that is unselfconsciously carefree, soon to be interrupted by the turbulence of experience. He presents the trials of life in various forms that include stifling parental authority in “Bars”: “Being guarded isn’t the freedom / she was born deserving.” “Selective Service Exemption” links disability and estrangement in the phrase “how to love without being loved.” Defibaugh’s poetry has a cumulative impact. The poem “Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy” charts the progression of the poet’s illness from his diagnosis at age 4, remarking: “Pines replaced peers repulsed by awkward moving. / Nature disregarded disability.” Elsewhere the comfort of exploring nature is torn away by further deterioration: “By fourteen, I could not navigate the forest / Or even hobble from room to room.” Admirers of Defibaugh’s debut collection will note that this one has fewer moments of levity here, and excursions into comedy can prove mordantly dark. In “vs. Modern Medicine” the poet notes: “Waiting for a cure is silly; / this chair will be my resting place, / and I’d settle even sooner / if it had a higher voltage.” This is a deep emotional excavation of hardship, carefully conceived and keenly executed from the author of Dynamic Parts (2014).

Tender yet mournful writing by a sharply observant poet.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69078-827-0

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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