THE IGUANA TREE

Stone’s debut literary fiction gives face and spirit, emotion and character, to those braving the deadly trail across our southern border, seeking only to find work, living only to be pursued as illegal immigrants.

Héctor has set out from Puerto Isadore, a bucolic village near Oaxaca, Mexico, paying a coyote to smuggle him into America. Héctor has left his wife Lilia and baby daughter Alejandra, who live with Lilia’s beloved grandmother, Crucita. Lilia loves her village life, but Héctor is adamant that happiness and prosperity lie north, and he stakes his life on his quest, enduring a claustrophobic cross-border ride in a welded-shut compartment secreted under a delivery truck. After finding kinship with Miguel, another pollo, Héctor follows Miguel to Edisto Island, S.C., where Miguel’s cousin, Pablo, provides safe haven and help finding work. Héctor is fortunate in his new employers, Lucas and Elizabeth, owners of a tree farm, who reward his hard work and dedication. However, Héctor's plans to save money to bring Lilia and Alejandra to America collapse when Crucita dies, and lonely Lilia defies Héctor's demands she wait. With the help of a childhood friend, Emanuel, Lilia begins an illicit journey that soon descends into horror. After being repeatedly raped by her coyote, Lilia’s coerced into leaving Alejandra at the border to be smuggled in later. The latter third of the novel deals powerfully with Alejandra’s disappearance, Lilia’s helplessness and Héctor’s rage and despair, with Stone’s narrative flowing inescapably toward realistic resolution. Each character resonates authentically, and the contrasts between idyllic but circumscribed life in Mexico, the bloody border and the welcome success hard work can bring to an appreciative immigrant is empathetically rendered. Stone has done exceptional work in making real the struggles and despair, the resolute discipline and hope, driving the desire to find a better life while also illuminating unexpected connections of near-familial love among people of difference cultures who live and work together. A haunting tale of hope and heartbreak.

 

Pub Date: March 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-891885-88-4

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Hub City Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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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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