A first-rate raconteur tells engaging tales of family and faith.



A boisterous novel about a rough man in search of the meaning of life.

The subtitle of Morgan’s debut calls it “an epistolary novel,” despite the fact that it contains no letters; instead, it tells a fictional tale “inspired in part by true incidents.” But Morgan’s dramatic instincts and sheer narrative gusto quickly sweep aside such category concerns, starting right from the beginning, which finds the main character, Tom Morgan, driving down a road in Indiana with his wife and two children. An accident sends them flying through the front windshield. They all survive with varying amounts of physical injury (as he memorably puts it, “my little girl fractured her arm and shoulder and at thirty is still retrieving shattered glass from her forehead”), but the incident prompts his estranged wife to divorce him and sue for custody of their children. Morgan, a plainspoken old “leftie” who describes himself as “a reclusive revolutionary marxist without a party, a rancher without his ranch, a horseman without his horses,” eventually contacts a lawyer named Jack McMurtry (“he’d spent a lifetime collecting quirky opinions”) in his quest to regain custody of his kids. But this family drama is just one strand in a sprawling narrative that overflows with beautifully drawn characters and scenes in the life of a dreamer and iconoclast. Along the way, the author vividly describes a series of colorful outcasts and offers his own countercultural digressions: “Free enterprising cultural decay is required for corporate profit,” he writes, for instance, and “The mental health industry deliberately dodges responsible analysis.” He also occasionally fulminates against “liberal pap at the pulpit.” But both religious and nonreligious readers will find an abundance of involving anecdotes in this rambling, highly detailed, and fictionally charged life story.

A first-rate raconteur tells engaging tales of family and faith.

Pub Date: July 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9975435-3-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: Mindstir Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

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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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