These stories provide plenty of revelation on the nature of the war and the soldiers who continue to fight it.

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THE ROAD AHEAD

STORIES OF THE FOREVER WAR

An anthology of stories covering a literary terrain as expansive as the seemingly endless "war on terror" that spawned it.

The most remarkable aspect of this collection of stories written by veterans of the “Forever War” (as the subtitle has it) is that it exists at all. In the past, there has been a lag between the experience of war and the fiction it inspired. The war on terror continues, and a number of veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have become accomplished storytellers, as this anthology attests. The stories address pretty much every aspect of a soldier’s life, from the last drink before service starts to the families left behind to the thrill and tragedy of the killing to the humanity of the enemy to the period of adjustment that finds the soldier still living in that world of combat while attempting to negotiate some sort of return to civilian normalcy. With over two dozen stories, each by a different writer, the style and quality necessarily vary. Perhaps the most audacious achievement is Matthew J. Hefti’s “We Put a Man in a Tree,” narrated in the first-person plural by a group of ghosts who won’t let a troubled veteran’s memories rest and who hound him into suicide: “We swallow families, and we eat lives, and we crush dreams, and we eat the fire that lived in the stomachs of our youth; because for those things to live, we need answers. But no one of us has the answers. We have only the questions.” A female perspective is more strongly represented here than in much war fiction, with five of the stories written by women. In “Little,” Teresa Fazio shows a great command of voice as she describes a tentative romance between her female narrator and an unlikely lover, neither of whom conforms to the stereotypes that soldiers themselves perpetuate.

These stories provide plenty of revelation on the nature of the war and the soldiers who continue to fight it.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-307-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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

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THE VANISHING HALF

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

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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

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