A passionately cautionary eco-tainment tale that cross-pollinates an impressive garden of genres.



Students and faculty at a rural Ohio college unite against an underhanded industrial mining scheme on protected land—unaware that a larger catastrophe looms.

In this novel, Gilligan University is an enclave of multicultural, progressive thought in Appalachian southern Ohio (those cognizant of the region will recognize a disguised Ohio University). Katja Nickleby was a globe-trotting academic whose posthumously published manuscript Over the Cliff became a 21st-century Silent Spring of climate change. By 2014, her protégé (and former lover), Stefan Friemanis, is a professor at Gilligan, smitten with a female student despite the taboos of such an affair. Meanwhile, another student discovers a dirty scheme by uncouth energy tycoon Jasper Morse to secure mining rights to a small but cherished old-growth forest deeded to the college—despite Gilligan’s vow to embrace “sustainability,” not fossil fuels. DIY investigations by Stefan’s undergraduate friends find vast, Koch brothers–like fortunes hidden offshore by Morse, tentacles of corruption reaching from a Gilligan administrator to the Ohio governor, and a Mafia-like cabal of Cleveland Greek Cypriots (Buckeye State shoutouts, even absurdist ones like that, abound). As events escalate to “monkey wrenching” sabotage and campus riots, the tale unfolds not only via Stefan’s journals, but also through the eyes of Hannah McGibbon, an erstwhile student now looking back from the 2030s—the drastically changed era forecast by Katja (remember her?). Bernard (Hope and Hard Times, 2010) wields a wise and skillful voice in this intricate eco-fiction, even as the narrative goes through more metamorphoses (international thriller, college-town dramedy, dystopian/sci-fi prophecy) than the volatile weather in the wounded world he invokes. Even with one climax on a literal dark and stormy night, the author’s erudite but never dry scholarly voice smooths the rough patches, including a finale/epilogue that’s like another book altogether (one of those many post-apocalypse cautionary yarns at that). Helpful essay inserts, footnotes, endnotes, and even charts and graphs present Bernard’s inconvenient truths.

A passionately cautionary eco-tainment tale that cross-pollinates an impressive garden of genres.

Pub Date: April 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-927032-84-8

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Petra Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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