The author has a number of tricks up her sleeve, making this tale of complicated women facing the unthinkable all the more...

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EVERYTHING SHE LOST

A woman deals with mental illness and a shady new friend in this thriller.

Nina Taylor had money, success, and a happy family. Or at least she thought she did. When she suffers a mental breakdown, her family and career are put through the ringer. Her husband, Rodney, bans her from their home and takes thousands of dollars from her earnings as a software engineer. The parents at school shun her, labeling her a threat to the safety of their kids. Worst of all, her new medications make her slow, lethargic, and unable to work, allowing her to dwell often on the suicide of her older brother. One of the few bright spots in her life is a new friend, Deja, a mom at her kids’ school who is similarly ostracized for being a young single parent. Unbeknown to the protagonist, her friend has a dark past that threatens Nina’s family and safety. A runaway who got involved with a violent pimp, Deja managed to escape with her young son, establishing a cushy career as a small-time wedding planner. But she had to steal money from her ex, Kevin, in order to live a better life and he’s come back to collect. Harris’ (Blaming the Wind, 2016) thriller gets off to a slow but intriguing start as she offers weighty clues that foreshadow turns the book takes later. The pair’s friendship is tested when Nina walks in on Kevin getting violent with Deja and a moment of self-defense changes everything. Nina and Deja try desperately to raise enough money to get themselves out of their jam with Kevin. But around the same time, a mysterious black sedan seems to be tailing Nina, hellbent on terrorizing or killing her. The author delivers twist after twist in this pulpy story. Harris expertly navigates the line between Nina’s dire new reality and the vestiges of her mental illness, allowing readers to revel in tense uncertainty—a dynamic that extends all the way to questions of trust involving Deja and the duo’s deadly secret.

The author has a number of tricks up her sleeve, making this tale of complicated women facing the unthinkable all the more compelling.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-948051-01-9

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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