Chu’s stories are solidly realistic in their scope, exploring everyday issues with charm and empathy—and occasional moments...

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LIKE A CHAMPION

The characters in Chu’s debut story collection grapple with quotidian struggles, employment mishaps, and unruly family dynamics.

Chu's stories are set in spaces one might write off as nondescript: generic office parks, stores in their final days of existence, fast-food restaurants, the hallways of cruise ships. At his best, Chu finds ways to turn the everyday into the revelatory. He’s especially good at tapping into the frustrations of working in corporate America circa now. In “Fred from Finance,” the title character is laid off from his job on his birthday, discovers some unpleasant truths about his former co-workers, and makes a few unlikely connections with people along the way. The narrator of “Rhubarb Pie” is forced to confront his own attitudes about his job of many years after one of his colleagues announces her intention to quit via a well-placed pie to the face of her boss. These are subtle, understated stories, by and large; in “Recent Conversations,” Chu explores the ambiguities of the dialogues that can emerge in the world of online dating, while in the title story, the proprietor of a toy store that’s soon to close attempts to determine if the object of his affection is also responsible for a recent theft. The collection juxtaposes the harmful impact that financial conditions and a shifting economic landscape can have on people, but Chu also leaves in space for his characters’ more personal foibles and flaws. He covers a host of relationships—familial, romantic, occupational—and, in doing so, showcases the complexities of the characters on display.

Chu’s stories are solidly realistic in their scope, exploring everyday issues with charm and empathy—and occasional moments of unexpected humor.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9984092-6-9

Page Count: 238

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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