Methodically paced, a story that never lags while engaging readers with unshakable characters.


Stolen Identity

In Banister’s (My Brother’s Keeper, 2013) drama, a teen suspects that his adoptive father may have kidnapped him when he was a young boy.

Dushan Sava hardly remembers his mother, Marta, who was abducted by a Yugoslav army unit when Dushan was an infant. Foster dad Burt Sandor tells Dushan that his birth father, Dimitri, gave him up for adoption and is presumed dead after his fishing boat was lost at sea. But years ago, Burt had enlisted his cousin Carolyn Markos—already in legal troubles for her “unofficial adoption office in Liverpool”—to find him a son. So Carolyn used a babysitter gig to take 4-year-old Dushan from the Isle of Man to San Francisco. By the time Dushan and stepbrother Dani are in high school, they hope to escape the abusive Burt and track down Dushan’s parents, both of whom he believes are alive. Banister’s linear narrative abandons any pretense of mystery: readers are often ahead of the characters, as with knowing that Marta is indeed still alive. There’s still some suspense, however, particularly with readers’ knowledge of Burt’s shadiness. Banister’s novel features different levels of villainy. Burt, for one, is unquestionably evil, wanting to “replace” his leukemia-stricken son, Markos, before he dies so that monthly payments for his sons’ trust fund (set up by Burt’s mother) aren’t interrupted. Carolyn, meanwhile, is simply desperate, needing cash to pay off thuggish Mr. Aksoy. Dushan speaks to his parents in dreams and has “shared dreams” with Dani, but Banister wisely keeps these scenes vague, never confirming a psychic link. The relationship between the stepbrothers is well-developed and the most convincing element, resonating louder than Dushan’s hope that he’ll one day reunite with the parents he barely knows. When Dushan and Dani break free, at least momentarily, from Burt, the two get separated, resulting in the book’s most dramatic turn of events. Readers will want Dushan to find Dimitri and Marta, but it’s more imperative that the brothers, who together have endured abuse and tragedy, are side by side by book’s end.

Methodically paced, a story that never lags while engaging readers with unshakable characters.

Pub Date: March 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941713-16-7

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Andrew Benzie Books

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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