A heartrending, realistic story about grief, depression and schizophrenia that finds positivity in the darkest of moments.

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LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Following the untimely death of his wife and son and a failed suicide attempt, a grief-stricken father is admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he struggles to find renewed hope and meaning in life.

Peterson’s touching second novel (Losing Elizabeth, 2012) begins with a dramatic fall. The one thing that Oliver Graham wants in life is to die. Stepping from the ledge of an 18-story building in downtown Chicago, he plummets toward the sidewalk, taking with him the police officer who was attempting to talk him down. The crowd of onlookers watches both men crash safely into an inflatable landing pad before Oliver is handcuffed and taken to an institution the book calls Airhaven Behavioral Health Center. He meets Penelope, a fellow patient who experiences auditory hallucinations. Penelope refers to the voice as Eleanor Roosevelt, which controls, demeans and beleaguers her on a daily basis. Oliver and Penelope both find their situations to be hopeless; that is, until they begin to relate to and encourage one another. Penelope’s fiance, William, is at first jealous of Oliver, but comes to recognize the therapeutic benefits that spring from their friendship. Meanwhile, William must fend off the advances of his attractive new neighbor, Mariska, and steel himself against his best friend’s suggestion that Penelope is a lost cause. The novel charts the emotional setbacks and triumphs of both patient and caregiver as Oliver and Penelope move toward their release from the institution. The author, a certified counselor, emphasizes the importance of human connection and creative endeavor in group therapy as a stimulus for recovery. Peterson succeeds in demystifying the world of psychiatric care and challenging the stigma that continues to surround mental health. A protracted and soapy melodramatic denouement sadly contradicts the book’s measured, sensitive tone, but this flawed ending cannot detract from the fact that this novel will offer hope to many of its readers.

A heartrending, realistic story about grief, depression and schizophrenia that finds positivity in the darkest of moments.

Pub Date: May 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59299-883-8

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

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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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