Bernardi is a prodigious talent, but this time she attempts to do too much.



More slices of Italian immigrant life and heritage from Drue-Heinz winner Bernardi.

An earlier collection (In the Gathering Woods, 2000) introduced several of the characters who figure in Bernardi’s second novel. Around the turn of the last century, Imola, a wife and mother in Ardonlà, a Northern Italian mountain village, supplements her family’s income by transporting unwanted infants to convents for adoption by wealthy families. Ultimately, she succumbs to the catatonia that has afflicted her female ancestors. Her brother Egidio and his friend Antenore, who nursed a childhood crush on Imola, emigrate to New Mexico to work as coalminers. Egidio is killed in a 1913 mine disaster, after Antenore departs for Colorado to organize miners. When Antenore returns to Italy to find Imola confined to an insane asylum, he meets and marries lovely redhead Desolina and the couple settle in Chicago, where Antenore becomes a prosperous stonemason. Their son Ray, a successful but conflicted traveling salesman, his wife Rina and their children Adele, Michael and Theresa lead a suburban middle-class existence complicated by squabbling, ever-encroaching relatives and Rina’s brush with cancer and subsequent hospitalization for depression. Rina’s mother, Adalgisa, is an alcoholic and Rina may have inherited Imola’s family curse: Her father, Ettore, a landscaper at a country club, is Imola’s nephew. Bernardi’s strengths are her ear for dialogue and her ability to articulate characters’ emotions. However, with the voices of seven principals and many other points-of-view, the narrative threads fail to tie together, leaving only a loose pastiche of linked stories. A tendency to over-explicate serpentine family ties and to circumvent pivotal action with (albeit beautifully rendered) impressionistic strokes further slackens the pace.

Bernardi is a prodigious talent, but this time she attempts to do too much.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-87074-510-7

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Southern Methodist Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?



A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?