A Baton Rouge matron flees to Jersey City to start life anew, only to find herself in a no-man's-land of rent strikes, hired thugs, and life-threatening potholes—in this earthy comedy by Sharp (The Imposter, 1991; The Woman Who Was Not All There, 1988). Like most southern women, Ida Terhune was taught to assume she would always be cared for by a man. When her husband and father passed away on the same day, leaving Ida with one child and another on the way, she naturally married the first suitor who presented himself, the gentlemanly Harlan Terhune. As it turned out, Harlan had little interest in Ida and even less in her children, so after years of emotional neglect, stiff-necked, polyester-pant-suited Ida decides she has no choice but to pack the kids into her Chrysler and flee to the Jersey City apartment of her best friend, Betty Trombley. There, Ida is disturbed to find that action-addicted Betty has joined her fellow slum tenants in an all-out war against their landlord, who's allowed a lake of sewer water to rise to shin level on the basement floor. As Ida's children nimbly accustom themselves to hanging out with the homeless, wandering the broken, abandoned sidewalks of Jersey City, and shoplifting in their spare time, Ida struggles genteelly to leave the apartment, find a job, and arrange for a decent education for her kids. The theft of her car sends this stalwart lady reeling so off-center that she ends up accidentally killing the landlord's thuggish son—but just as she faces a life sentence in prison, another male savior appears, this time in the form of her eccentric Brazilian-American defense attorney, who'll win Ida's heart as he rescues her from doom. Sharp painstakingly sets up a number of comic situations that fizzle out disappointingly in the end—but this antic novel charms nevertheless with its frantic humor and roguish cast.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-016564-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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