An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted mélange of ghost story, cultural inquiry,...

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HADRIANA IN ALL MY DREAMS

If you’ve ever wondered what ingredients to use to create a zombie out of a living person (and how exactly does one extract the bones of a garter snake’s middle ear?), your search ends with this one-of-a-kind novel.

“I died on the night of the most beautiful day of my life.” So begins the testimony of Hadriana Siloé, a sensuous pale-skinned Creole woman who, on the Saturday evening of Jan. 29, 1938, in her Haitian village of Jacmel, collapses at her wedding altar. She had earlier taken a mysterious potion that induces what we would now label “living death.” She is buried in the midst of a village bacchanal and later revived by an evil sorcerer. Keep in mind, however, that two-thirds of the book passes before Hadriana gives us her side of the story. Before then, this ribald, free-wheeling magical-realist novel, first published in 1988 and newly, engagingly translated by Glover, examines this traumatic event from many different angles, drawn from before and after Hadriana’s…um...passage. There is, for example, the legend of a libidinous young Jacmel citizen transformed into a libidinous butterfly enjoying carnal knowledge of most of the women in town; a town that undergoes precipitous decline tied to Hadriana’s misfortune. These and other aspects of the novel’s central catastrophe are filtered through the recollections and research of a man named Patrick, whose youthful ardor for Hadriana endures throughout the decades of her afterlife. Patrick, who seems a surrogate for the now-90-year-old Depestre, shows himself throughout to be a true savant on all things zombie, from the aforementioned recipe for “zombie poison” and its antidote to the celebrated cases of “Lil’ Joseph [the] zombifier” and the dead-woman-walking known as “Gisèle K.” By the time you’ve wandered these spooky, sultry corridors of Haiti’s collective subconscious, you’re persuaded that the true sorcery being practiced here is that of a mature artist coming to terms—and making peace—with “the natural, the comical, the playful, the sensual, and the magical aspects of Jacmel’s painful past.”

An icon of Haitian literature serves up a hotblooded, rib-ticking, warmhearted mélange of ghost story, cultural inquiry, folk art, and véritable l’amour.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61775-533-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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