An original religious plot buoyed by philosophical depth.



After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a woman leaves her family to follow a man she believes is Jesus.  

In this novel, Catherine Deare lives a happy but ordinary life in a suburb of Pennsylvania. Contentedly married and the mother of a well-adjusted teenager, she works as an entertainer at children’s birthday parties (she studied music in college). Then one day that begins like any other, she picks up a hitchhiker who says he’s headed to Philadelphia who’s preternaturally intuitive and generally mysterious, with just a hint of the kind of religious zeal that usually discomfits her. Before he departs, he inexplicably guesses that Catherine suffers from the loss of a child—she did, in fact, lose her daughter, Lindsey, in a freak accident some 10 years earlier. She is convinced she just met Jesus, and at the very least he looks the part: tall and slender, with a mane of long hair and a face blanketed with a full beard. Later that same day, Catherine discovers that the World Trade Center was attacked and the grim news slowly trickles in from friends, family, and television reports. The nation as a whole reacts to the catastrophe with a blend of implacable bloodlust and ostentatious displays of patriotism, which makes Catherine profoundly uncomfortable, a collective response powerfully captured by Colahan (Career School, 2015). Even Catherine’s husband, Brian, an otherwise reasonable man, is overcome by a “thirst for vengeance.” Then, emotionally roiled by stress and her family’s insistence that she enlist the help of a therapist, Catherine runs into that stranger yet again, who takes her to meet his group of disciples, who refer to him as “Lord” and “Master.” He confirms her suspicions that he is Jesus, and Catherine abandons her family to join his quest to return to Bethlehem.  Colahan builds an emotionally arresting drama around a refreshingly unconventional premise. And Jesus’ band of disciples is an intriguingly eclectic bunch, including a prostitute and a fugitive serial rapist. Jesus remains an enigmatic character even after he affirms his identity—he seems remarkably ordinary in some respects for a divine personage, and his refusal to present an unambiguous demonstration of his power through the performance of miracles frustrates his followers to no end. Still, there’s something nebulously masterly about him, a kind of supernatural spirituality that makes his preposterous claim plausible. The conceit of the novel produces some philosophically searching discussions about the nature of Christianity and moral judgment, the character of evil and sin, and topical issues like the death penalty. Colahan also raises a provocative question: If Jesus were to actually walk the Earth today, what would be his purpose? Jesus answers this obliquely: “Catherine, believe it or not, saving the world from its problems has never been my mission. That’s like expecting a marriage counselor to save every marriage. The counselor shows the troubled couple the route they should go, but they still have to take the journey themselves or the marriage will fail.” 

An original religious plot buoyed by philosophical depth. 

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945330-90-2

Page Count: 391

Publisher: Telemachus Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2018

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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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