A bold, stylized debut that doesn’t always work, yet is mainly compelling.

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THE SALT OF BROKEN TEARS

A first novel from Australian author Meehan, whose young protagonist, like a Cormac McCarthy boy, is compelled by enormous emotional confusion to undertake a perilous journey that pits him against nature for survival.

Skinny, uncomfortable in his skin, the boy “wrapped himself in his father’s heavy peajacket and wore it even through the high heat of the day,” along with a “battered army slouch” and “heavy boots that . . . needed the aid of rolled newspaper and bandages just to stay on his feet.” He has two idols: Joe Spencer, a strong, muscular farmhand; and Cabel Singh, a storytelling hawker from India with legendary knowledge of the Outback. As the boy tries to understand through them the route to manhood, into his seething thoughts and the family farm stumbles Eileen, a wild, sensual girl-woman. When she disappears, leaving behind a bloody dress, the boy’s journey into the Outback begins. When a writer like Meehan is compared to Faulkner and McCarthy, a reader expects stylish prose to abound. And it does here. In the night, the boy steals from his bed and rounds up his old pony and “pup” and leaves to track Cabel, hoping to find Eileen—the action spans 11 pages. Faulkner reigns here. But at the end of the second act, the story broadens jarringly. Across the rough Outback terrain, a man comes peddling strenuously on an old, decrepit bike. They meet, and soon the man philosophizes about Cabel Singh and life, especially his own war experience and subsequent stay in Paris. Becket! From philosopher to dead man in a tree dressed in red-and-white striped pajamas, from beginning to fiery end, the boy encounters bizarre situations, following in the footsteps of his storytelling idol, physically and metaphorically.

A bold, stylized debut that doesn’t always work, yet is mainly compelling.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55970-567-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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