In the end, Lana’s election turns out to be a minor issue in this sardonic tale of who did what to whom. The justice-for-all...

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SWAMP GAS

A wildly satirical story of Louisiana politics that provides enough zany characters to fill a New Orleans bayou and keep even Yankees laughing out loud.

At a meeting of the Polish American Small Businessmen's Association, David Souchecki raises the eternal question that sets this roller-coaster debut novel in motion: Where are the famous southern Polish-Americans? Soucheki's cronies at Franky and Johnny's restaurant can't think of anyone except Stanley Kowalski (quickly dismissed as “fictional”) and Lana Pulaski, a bright, sharp-tongued medical malpractice attorney whose short stature and barmaid looks have kept her out of the big leagues. Though Lana styles her hair big and wears come-hither clothes, Soucheki and his associates think she’d make the perfect candidate for state attorney general because she's both an “ambulance chaser” who looks easily corruptible and an orphaned woman who can turn out the sympathy vote. Once the starting gun has sounded, Paolini trots out one loopy, likable character after another faster than you can snap a green bean in two, each one linked to the others by so many past crimes and secrets that she makes every Louisiana parish seem to swarm with more disenfranchised connections of one big, incestuous, and underhanded political family. Even though everyone has a unique agenda, and some seem to have a unique biology, Paolini, with her deadpan absurdist's vision, manages to wrestle a dark comedy of political manners out of such diverse specimens as a diamond-toothed skeleton in a shed; the murdered Dennis Herbert and his QVC-addicted wife; a recidivist car thief/heroin addict named Crouton (pronounced like the salad ingredient); the befuddled judge Lana marries to pump up her numbers; and Bugman the exterminator.

In the end, Lana’s election turns out to be a minor issue in this sardonic tale of who did what to whom. The justice-for-all conclusion, like the rest of this lively story, surprises and satisfies.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-26235-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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