A bizarre but delightful sendup of illogical arguments.

The Ugly

A Slovak tribal chief attends Harvard Law School in order to gain the skills to save his tribe in Boldizar’s debut satire.

Muzhduk the Ugli, the Fourth, the leader of a tribe in northeastern Siberia, triumphantly defends a challenge to his chieftainship by winning the Dull-Boulder Throw. But in order to solidify his leadership status, the 300-pound Slovak must climb a mountain that’s higher than those scaled by previous chiefs, including his father. Mount Baldhead in the Verkhoyansk Range appears to be ideal, but then a group of Americans shows up there, claiming that they’ve purchased it from the Russian government. Furthermore, an attorney with a law degree from Harvard University bamboozles Muzhduk and his father into signing over tribal land. Soon, Muzhduk is intent on applying to Harvard himself, seeing it as his metaphorical mountain; specifically, he wants to gain the proper vernacular to defeat the American lawyer at his own game. Despite a perfect LSAT score, he has trouble gaining admittance to the school, but he ultimately takes the place of another student, Peggy Roundtree, who gave up her spot. A concurrent plotline follows Muzhduk in Mali, a year or so later, searching for Peggy. It appears that some governments in Africa have declared Peggy a terrorist, and after rebels kidnap her, Muzhduk seeks to help her with his newfound weapon of words. Boldizar’s lampoons of legal arguments are largely successful even if the frequent classroom discussions don’t always make sense. For example, Muzhduk makes a point about a well-known 1994 lawsuit against McDonald’s by contrasting buying hot coffee with slavery. It is, however, amusing to watch a man who’s accustomed to settling disputes physically engage in a “word-throwing battle.” The novel’s humor carries into its occasional surreal moments, such as Muzhduk’s interactions with a small, blue-furred, and possibly imaginary bear named Pooh (which the Slovak says might be a possible copyright violation). The scenes set in Mali are often tense, as the rebels feel like a genuine threat. Translated Slovak curses are sometimes offensive but consistently hilarious, such as “May your mother recognize you in kebab meat.”

A bizarre but delightful sendup of illogical arguments.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-936767-47-2

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Brooklyn Arts Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • 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?