A beautiful book about the soldiers who sit on the front lines of the U.S. military machine.

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THE KNIFE

An account of the long stretches of boredom and short bursts of adrenaline that make up a Ranger team’s deployment in Afghanistan.

Former Army Ranger and combat veteran Ritchell delivers a war story about the mind-numbing periods of waiting, the stress of battle fatigue, the ingeniously idiotic ideas that fill downtime and the spine-tingling moments when life is ever so fragile. When we meet Ranger team leader Dutch Robert Shaw, he's ruminating over coffee about the loss of his last family member, the grandmother who raised him. His reflection is cut short by the call for an immediate redeployment to an ambiguous stretch of battle-torn Afghanistan. Unlike many frenzied accounts of war, this story flows at a comfortable tempo with plenty of time to describe the poker games and discussions about higher education that fill the long flight into a war zone. Once on the ground, the five-man Ranger team spends its time in the FOB (forward operating base) packing seemingly endless amounts of chewing tobacco and devising childlike dares. There's no rush to get to battle scenes, but when they arrive, Ritchell describes night operations, “snatch and grab”s and the elimination of HVTs (High Value Targets) without false bravado, while still broadcasting the immense skill possessed by these soldiers. He draws the high drama and moral complexity of the Rangers' life on the front lines from a place of narrative distance, allowing the reader to fill in the unstated emotions of Shaw and his team, giving their story great poignancy.   

A beautiful book about the soldiers who sit on the front lines of the U.S. military machine.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17340-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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