An unconventional, beguiling, and endearing family tale.

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SAMMIE & BUDGIE

A father suspects his young son may hold the power to see the future in this novel.

Simon Burchwood is a tender father of two with a difficult life. A computer networking specialist who dreams of becoming an author, he spends an inordinate amount of time reflecting on his inadequacies and failures. Following the death of his ex-wife in a motor vehicle accident, Simon must raise Sammie, a bright as a button little boy with special needs, and his elder sister, Jessie, a competitive young girl with a ferocious love of taekwondo. Sammie wants a pet budgerigar (an Australian parakeet), which he plans to name Budgie. Simon begins to suspect that Sammie has unusual abilities when the child foresees his after-school counselor seriously injuring herself. Intrigue builds as Sammie’s apparent mysticism allows him to select a winning lottery ticket at a convenience store. Surprised and alarmed by his son, Simon takes Sammie to a physician but is met initially with skepticism. Yet when Sammie envisions that all is not well with his grandfather, whom he refers to as PeePaw, the clan sets off on a road trip posthaste. The result is a sensitively told story about family bonds and individual dreams. This is the third installment in the life of the fictional wannabe author. Semegran’s (The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood, 2012, etc.) fan base will recognize Simon’s rambling, often crude confessional inner monologue: “Sometimes, kids say the weirdest things at the weirdest times and there really is no rhyme or reason to why they say these things. They just do, and what they say is like an involuntary burp that escapes your mouth an hour after lunch or a silent yet stinky fart that slips out while you’re in an important meeting.” Some readers may quickly dismiss this approach as overly wordy and tiresome, yet Semegran is a persuasive writer, and in this particular story, Simon’s self-doubting verbosity becomes oddly endearing. Sammie is the true star, however—a sparklingly intuitive young character whose few words make the tale truly tick. Simple lines such as “Sorry I told you the truth, Daddy” are not only heart-melting, but also succeed in puncturing the hubris of adult life with the innocence of childhood. Illustrated throughout by Semegran, this book is the author’s best. In these pages, his steadfastly idiosyncratic style really begins to click.

An unconventional, beguiling, and endearing family tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-92692-5

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Mutt Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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