A slim volume packed with rugged tales and smart, brawny characters.

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HOW TO BE A MAN

Short stories on ranching and relationships.

Linse grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, broke her leg at 4 and a horse at 12. While her debut collection of stories spans 15 years of writing and vast narrative terrain, she never strays far from her roots. The folks who swagger and steal through these stories are tough; they’ve had it tough, but Linse carries them handily. In the title story, Birdie Gunderson is a farm girl but sees herself as neither girl nor boy but “an efficient cog in the machinery of the farm.” The story reads as a series of affirmations as a teenager struggles for identity amid the forces of society and tradition. Linse vividly renders the story with details likely gleaned from experience: using bag balm for cow teats as lip gloss; pollinating tomato plants at sunset. Strong women and girls dominate the collection. In “Nose to the Fence,” 14-year-old Cindy breaks in horses and city boys with arms made muscular by bailing hay. In “Mouse,” a 10-year-old rescues baby mice from the irrigation ditch but accepts their fate and dispatches each one with a heavy stone. Though less nuanced, Linse’s male narrators still hold the stories together. “Revelations,” for example, is full of bravado: With disjointed dialogue, three friends vie for control over women, nature and each other. “Hard Men” opens in perfect, deranged passion: Teenage Johnny has shot his father; the pizza man decomposes in the bathtub; Linse deftly sets the scene, weaves in back story, and adds a waft of bacon and the feel of blood through Scotchgarded carpet. Like most of Linse’s characters, Johnny is clever, and he wrangles the unfathomable to a rational end. But the end comes too soon—Johnny raises more questions than several pages can answer, as do Cindy, Mouse, Birdie and others. Linse writes as if flexing her own ranch-toned muscles, creating intense, original characters and letting them loose. The result could fill a novel—or two. All bodes well for Linse’s future work.

A slim volume packed with rugged tales and smart, brawny characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9913867-0-3

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Willow Words

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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