A powerful story with a vivid setting, compelling plot, and multifaceted characters.

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TWO COINS

From the Women of Determination and Courage series

In this riveting historical novel based on true events, political tensions in a Scottish mission in 19th-century Calcutta, India, give rise to a sexual scandal.

Mary Pigot has been the superintendent of the Ladies’ Association Female Mission in Calcutta for 10 years before the Rev. William Hastie arrives in 1879. Hastie, the principal of the Scottish College, quickly finds fault with Pigot’s policies, practices, and mannerisms; for example, he feels that the orphanage that she manages isn’t up to Scottish standards of cleanliness. Hastie and his comrades also don’t agree with her proselytizing approach: “educate first, convert later—if ever.” Nor does Pigot share Hastie’s resentment toward members of the Free Church, which broke away from the Church of Scotland in 1843. She’s quick to assist anyone who needs help—even members of the local community whom Hastie finds questionable. The growing friction between Pigot and Hastie culminates in a formal investigation of the superintendent followed by libelous claims that she’s abusive, neglectful, incompetent, and immoral. Due to her casual demeanor with male colleagues, her enemies accuse her of “fornication” with an Indian man and a fellow missionary. To clear her name and take back her position, Pigot takes Hastie to court, leading to an unpredictable, sensational trial. Although the book is set in the 1800s, its approach to political, religious, cultural, and gender-related issues is surprisingly relevant. Wagner-Wright (Rama’s Labyrinth, 2015, etc.) paints India’s culture and climate in stunning detail: “March comes on like a slow fire. Another week, and we’ll have the humidity.” The realistic, intricate characters take turns narrating the tale, panoramically revealing themselves through their perceptions. At one point, for example, Hastie narrates, “I stop and take a breath, composing myself for this audience of fools.” The plot’s first half proceeds at an unhurried pace, but when the trial starts, its momentum resembles that of a competitive sporting event. Wagner-Wright’s extensive research allows her to stay remarkably true to history while her creativity brings an outstanding story of courage and fortitude to life.

A powerful story with a vivid setting, compelling plot, and multifaceted characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9963845-4-4

Page Count: 504

Publisher: Wagner Wright Enterprises

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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