DIVINING BLOOD

All McCoy's strengths—a feisty heroine, a strong regional presence, and much colorful writing—are here, but again the premise and resolution, in this her third novel (Summertime, Walking After Midnight), seem imposed rather than naturally evolving. At 24, along with month-old baby and lover Johnny, runaway Delana Mae Walsh is returning to the family home on the Mississippi River, a place she left seven years ago in a moment of shame and anguish. During the seven years, she has worked as a cook and then as a pilot on the boats that tow the barges up and down the Mississippi. But despite her love for Johnny, an engineer on the boat, and the affection of the crew, Delana Mae has been haunted by the unresolved mysteries in her family: the drowning of a four- year-old sister Sally; her own conception right after the accident; and her doctor father's longtime relationship with his office nurse, whom he married when her own mother, Dovie died. The family home becomes a setting for an updated Showboat as members of the crew, delayed by a mechanical fault, interact in a series of set- pieces, with the Walsh family, including the deeply religious Marcia, dissatisfied with her marriage and yearning to speak in tongues. All ends well as Marcia finds spiritual and sexual joy; Delana Mae learns the truth about her parents; the past is absolved as the baby is baptized at the spot where sister Sally had drowned; and Delana Mae realizes that Johnny is tied to the river, but will come back to visit, until ``the day the river will run dry on him, [and] wash him up to her'' for good. At times McCoy seems to be trying too hard to be the serious novelist, concerned with big issues like incest, religious faith, and the differences between the sexes, and writing as if acclaim were merely a matter of accruing metaphors and similes. But still much to enjoy.

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-671-75065-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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