A sharp and biting satire of the new face of Eastern Europe: a bestseller in Hungary and Germany that deserves a good run...

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TO ERR IS DIVINE

Second novel but first US appearance for Hungarian author Bozai: a witty tale that imagines the travails that befall a middle-aged atheist schoolteacher who finds herself crowned with a halo.

Anna Levay is one of those timid, gray souls who inhabit the faculty lounges of public schools across the globe. Thrifty (of necessity), diligent, and prudent, she is the sort of woman who allows herself the luxury of nothing but bath salts. Why? Because a colleague from the physics department once told her that the suds insulate the water and help conserve heat. The comfortable routine of her life is changed when she emerges from the tub one night to discover a nimbus of light encircling her head. After convincing herself that it is not a hallucination (which takes some time), she carefully takes the halo’s temperature (to make sure it is not hot enough to start a fire) and goes to bed. The next morning it’s still there—stranger still, no one else except babies and animals can see it. Anna tries to go about her life as usual, hoping that her delusion will eventually subside. Fat chance. A series of strange events, all somehow linked to Anna, begin to occur in her small coastal town. Fish jump out of the water and ground themselves. Unexplained healings take place in the river nearby. Anna begins involuntarily to quote long passages from the Bible in the middle of everyday conversations. The corrupt mayor (an ex-Communist turned entrepreneur) and his sidekick, a venal neurologist, are concerned. They had grandiose and lucrative plans to turn the city into a world-class tourist attraction but now find themselves swamped with a tidal influx of sick and handicapped pilgrims. Lourdes is not the kind of resort the mayor had in mind. So he and the neurologist conspire to get Anna put quietly out of the way. Will she go quietly? Never underestimate the staying power of tenured faculty.

A sharp and biting satire of the new face of Eastern Europe: a bestseller in Hungary and Germany that deserves a good run over here.

Pub Date: June 28, 2004

ISBN: 1-58243-277-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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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