An engaging, if not absorbing, story of cultural adaptation, with sympathetic characters and ample historical detail.

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FAR AWAY, I LAND

Individuals of Hungarian, Sri Lankan and English descents cross paths in Alles-Crouch’s debut novel.

Beginning with a brief look in Sri Lanka at the lives of Englishman Robert Cross, his Hungarian wife, Erzsike, and their daughter, Beya, the book then quickly flashes back to World War II. In Hungary, young Erzsike, the daughter of affectionate parents, enjoys a life rich in tradition and compassion for others; her family even hides a Jewish professor from the Germans. Robert, born in London to a loving mother and a stern father with an iron fist, later moves with his family to Canada. World War II begins, and Robert goes to war at 18, displaying leadership qualities throughout his distinguished military service. Urged by friend and lover Rudi, Erzsike reluctantly flees her homeland and the barbarism of the Russians during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1945 in Ceylon, Harriet Meedeniya is captivated when she first lays eyes on Cyril Alvis, private secretary to the inspector of police whom Robert met during the war. They marry and have children, including fair-skinned Prema, an intelligent, resourceful boy eager to escape his ritualistically abusive father. Alles-Crouch’s novel is a timely reminder that revolution is not new, and it comes at a price. The tale is mostly well-told, with various plotlines neatly integrated, although an occasional passage seems out of place. The story spans decades without the feel of an epic sweep; despite war and revolution being factors, this isn’t historical fiction. The primary focus is on individuals of differing ethnic backgrounds, their reactions to circumstances beyond their control and their efforts to successfully adjust to a foreign culture. Robert admires Erzsike’s struggle to survive, yet after their marriage, she feels pressured to be more English, even changing her name to Elizabeth. The once–love-struck Harriet, inextricably linked to a wife-beating husband who nearly kills her, eventually finds life meaningless. Readers won’t be able to help but root for resilient Prema, who, unlike his mother, retains his humanity in the face of savagery, humiliation and neglect. Like smoke from a fire, he rises.

An engaging, if not absorbing, story of cultural adaptation, with sympathetic characters and ample historical detail.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-62901-025-0

Page Count: 359

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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