An engrossing, relatable tale about letting go.

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CHASING THE LAST WHALE

The second book in Wictor’s (Ghosts and Ballyhoo, 2013, etc.) Ghosts trilogy tells the darkly humorous tale of an unusual friendship between a quadriplegic and a depressed copywriter.

In the second book in a uniquely ambitious trilogy composed of a memoir, a novel and a diary, Wictor expands on characters from the memoir to craft a story of both barely repressed anger and uncommon love. Narrated by Elliot Finell, a 36-year-old marketing copywriter, the book begins with his first conversation with Trey Gillespie, a man who fell off of a stool 22 years ago and lost the use of his arms and legs, with sensations in his limbs replaced by constant pain. Trey, it seems, has the ability to get people to open up. Even the very private Elliot discovers he can’t help but tell Trey all sorts of private things. Following that first meeting, Elliot confronts his girlfriend, Gary Pruett (yes, like a guy’s name), starting an argument that rattles his relationship and causes him to have a heart attack. As the story progresses, readers follow Elliot during this difficult point in his life, learning that he’s had a poor relationship with his family since he was a child and that his siblings teased him for being fat. He’s struggling to deal with losing the only woman he’d ever loved, whom he cared enough about to argue with her over something she refused to deal with. Elliot also deepens his relationship with Trey, whose ominous warning at their first meeting—“I had enough of this shit”—steadily proves to be more than mere words as the bitter man in the wheelchair asks an unthinkable favor of his new friend. Throughout, it’s a surprising, difficult yet intensely honest story filled with compelling characters; the way personal details are exposed through voices and actions—perhaps thanks to Wictor’s memoir-writing experience—may make readers wonder if these are real people he’s writing about. Although frequently dramatic, the story is, like life, peppered with a healthy dose of humor, sometimes even in the most trying situations, making the story seem all the more real and its impact all the more heart-wrenching.

An engrossing, relatable tale about letting go.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615819143

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Thomas Wictor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 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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