Bird (Alamo House, 1986; The Boyfriend School, 1986) outdoes herself with this hilarious, deadpan account of a Texan artist's attempt at surrogate motherhood-a warm, wise, and witty comedy by an author who's finally his her stride. Spaced-out San Antonio artist Trudy Herring is no one's idea of a perfect mother. She drifts from one unemployment check to another while creating weird objets d`art from other people's trash (a plastic Christ figure covered with plastic ants, called the Antychrist, for example). Her only regret, in fact, is a promise she made ten years ago: Forced to have an abortion, she vowed to the baby's spirit (nicknamed Sweet Pea) that she'd get her life together someday and bring it back. Now, at 38, Trudy despairs of making good on her guarantee. Salvation appears in the person of Hillary Goettler, Trudy's new boss of the Museum of Folk Art, a woman who dresses spectacularly, lives in a historic San Antonio mansion, is married into one of the city's oldest families and is cursed with infertility. Trudy offers to become a surrogate mother for Hillary, and before she can think twice she's been inseminated, ensconced in the Goettler home, clothed in all-cotton maternity jumpsuits, and crammed full of foul- tasting health-food dinners. Not surprisingly, Trudy and Hillary soon loathe each other, and Trudy begins sneaking out of the mansion to gorge on Mexican good and daydream about Sinclair Coker, the long-gone artist/boyfriend who sired Sweet Pea. At last Trudy finds him again-an overweight ex-gigolo hiding out at a condemned hot-springs spa-and must decide whether to give the new Sweet Pea a life of shallow luxury or one surrounded by questionable art objects, unpredictability and love. A wonderful take, placing Bird squarely among the best of Texas writers.

Pub Date: May 21, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-41123-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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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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