An intricate and moving examination of the challenges of aging anchored by a memorable heroine of indomitable pride and...



In this novel about love, loss, and the pitfalls of aging, a spirited elderly woman, forced to rely on others for her survival, unexpectedly influences those who come to her aid.

Tidy Bourbon is an irascible 92-year-old woman stubbornly clinging to independence in her home in Oakdale, California. Physically fragile and beginning to lose her memory at the end of her long life, Tidy forges a relationship of mutual reliance with her boarder, Ivan, a middle-aged Russian down on his luck. When Ivan’s drinking lands him in jail for an extended period, Tidy must look elsewhere for the help she so unwillingly needs. She manages to build a small cadre of equally reluctant protectors. One by one, Tidy wins them over—Claire, the social worker, still fragile and defensive after losing her young husband to cancer; Emily, the bank teller, always cheerful and patient with Tidy’s quirks; and Julian, Emily’s husband and a no-nonsense accountant who cannot believe he keeps coming back to abet such a disorganized and unpredictable client. Less helpful are the down-and-out neighborhood street people Tidy finds herself forced to turn to: Bernie, Blackie, Rap, and Miki, all of whom offer some support while stealing Tidy’s money, prescription drugs, and even her car. Olton (Always Another Horizon, 2007) constructs a persuasive and caring narrative that addresses the issues of old age without separating them from the trials that confront all humans who must try to remain open to love in the face of the reality of death and loss. Her characters are believably complex and depicted with empathy, even Miki, the Russian Ivan asks to look in on Tidy, who cannot resist the temptation to steal from her. If it seems a bit unrealistic that so many people are compelled to go above and beyond the call of duty to assist the protagonist, readers will likely forgive this flaw because Tidy and her friends have won them over too.

An intricate and moving examination of the challenges of aging anchored by a memorable heroine of indomitable pride and courage.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-1237-2

Page Count: 380

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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