Newcomer Bokat sketches her characters with broad strokes, and though sometimes her pen slips into caricature, predominantly...

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REDEEMING EVE

A 1990s woman is torn between her family and her career, and fills it with compassion, good humor, and an abundance of angst.

Eve Sterling is a 30-year-old academic with a passion for Jane Austen and not much else. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend, she’s content to sit at home alone, mostly contemplating her dissertation, until a friend in desperation sets her up on a blind date. Hart, a commercial photographer, is nothing like the men she usually goes out with (academics, with a few poets mixed in), but they both soon fall head over heels and begin seriously contemplating marriage. Of course, fate intervenes, and Eve becomes pregnant. Suddenly she must learn to envision herself not only as a wife but a parent—when, without warning, her academic adviser dismisses her work as “trivial.” And her mother, an overbearing Dr. Ruth–like therapist, reveals some of her daughter’s deepest secrets on national television, pushing Eve into a deep, dark psychological abyss. She escapes to London, abandoning Hart (now her husband) and her newborn daughter, Gemma, in the hopes of finding herself. Bokat reinforces Eve’s sense of confusion by cleverly alternating between her personal letters and the main storyline. Eve eventually returns to the States, yet the author does not quite fall victim to the desire to create a conventional happy ending, leaving most of her people’s lives somewhat in flux. Eve may never be able to resolve her internal and interpersonal pressures, but the author, through her deft usage of Jane Austen quotes throughout the text, makes us realize these are not problems restricted to the contemporary woman.

Newcomer Bokat sketches her characters with broad strokes, and though sometimes her pen slips into caricature, predominantly they’re finely drawn with humor, sensitivity, and a dash of chutzpah. A fine debut.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-57962-064-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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