Goofy academic struggles for those who need a break in the faculty lounge.



A comical novel about life at a zany community college, from debut author Pearson.

When Charlie gets the job of special projects coordinator at Cow Eye Community College, he’s not quite sure what to expect, especially after his bizarre phone interview: “Several questions concerned my relevant experience in highly divisive work environments and how I might resolve a series of hypothetical conflicts—for example, what I would do if one of my colleagues tried to sever the head of a key administrator.” Nevertheless, after a long bus ride to the town of Cow Eye Junction, Charlie is met by the man in charge, Dr. Felch. Charlie, he’s told, is replacing the last special projects coordinator, who had “countless awards and commendations. References from the Queen of England and Archduke of Canterbury” (though she turned out to be an “unmitigated disaster”). His goals seem relatively simple: ensure that the school maintains accreditation and plan the annual Christmas party. Unfortunately, those directives are anything but. The constantly feuding, eccentric faculty doesn’t help. Sam Middleton, a medieval poetry expert, is a “card-carrying institutional anarchist,” while Alan Long River, the public speaking teacher, “hadn’t spoken a word to anybody at the college—his students included—for more than twelve years.” Bureaucracy rules the school, and opportunities for conflict and adventure are many, including a team-building exercise in which new hires must castrate a calf and heated focus groups; one of the institutional researchers has “been very adamant that no educational endeavor should be attempted without first conducting a focus group or a survey of some kind.” Whether or not this mix proves humorous depends on the reader’s patience for tongue-in-cheek jokes about backwardness (“the unfamiliar voice belonged to the college’s tenured negroid’”) and adjunct professors (“We’re not allowed to refer to them by name”). Ambitious in its creation of this kooky world, the book will certainly strike a chord with readers lost in their own wacky arenas of academic bickering. Others may be bored by lengthy orientation sessions and party planning, as with the seating arrangement for the Christmas party: “We’ve also made sure to bring them together politically, economically, and ethnically. In each group there will be at least one laissez-faire capitalist and one left-leaning socialist. One centrist and one anarchist. One tenured faculty member and one who is non-tenured. One white, one Asian. A lumper and a splitter. A Catholic and a Protestant. Sikh and Hindu. Jew and jihadist. Social scientist and actual scientist. Vegetarian and anti-vegetarian.”

Goofy academic struggles for those who need a break in the faculty lounge.   

Pub Date: April 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0990915027

Page Count: 540

Publisher: Cow Eye Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2015

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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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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