An enjoyable, if slightly preachy, story of a trip to the Arctic.

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QUIET FREEDOM

Debut novelist Peace tells the story of a woman who travels to Greenland to find a polar bear in the wild.

Reeling from the sudden death of her best friend, Amanda has trouble finding meaning in the Seattle-based marketing job to which she’s dedicated her life. She hopes to be awed by the polar bear exhibit at the local zoo, but even this is disappointing: “A feeling of sadness came over Amanda. She wondered if anyone realized how manufactured the zoo was.” A conversation with a similarly zoo-skeptical traveler convinces Amanda that she’ll need to go out into nature and seek out awesome experiences firsthand. She decides to put the rest of her life on hold and embark on a journey to northern Greenland in order to attain her new life goal: to see a polar bear in its natural surroundings. The journey ends up being a bit more than she bargained for, as she deals with the physical dangers of the high Arctic as well as psychologically defeating realizations about the Earth’s rapidly changing climate. Laying eyes on one of the world’s most endangered beasts may not change the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but will it be enough to introduce Amanda to her core self? Peace writes in a simple yet elegant prose style, frequently mixing in facts and figures to keep the reader abreast of the situation’s real-life stakes: “A single polar bear’s natural territory can be hundreds of square miles….A typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear can be up to eighty million times smaller than a wild bear’s home range.” But these didactic flourishes, along with the meticulous documentation of Amanda’s journey (the novel is nearly 500 pages long), sometimes make the work read more like a travel memoir than a fictional account. The motivations for the trip also feel a bit contrived. But Amanda’s quest is compelling nevertheless: an adventure at the top of the world that feels relevant to the life of every reader—and to the planet as a whole.

An enjoyable, if slightly preachy, story of a trip to the Arctic.

Pub Date: March 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9962705-0-2

Page Count: 498

Publisher: Norlight Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2018

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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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