Although Clement (Pretty Is as Pretty Does, 2001) can get preachy about the oppressed poor and the evils of war, she...

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An Oregon woman’s life unravels as she grapples with the possibility that another woman was murdered because she was not.

June is supremely happy in her life. She likes her job as the cook in an elementary school attended by the more downtrodden children in town, and she loves her husband Bill, a chef, with whom she has shared a childless but blissful marriage for ten years. One day when June’s car breaks down, the father of a child from the school offers her a ride home. She considers the invitation, then decides she’d rather walk. That same afternoon, the man is arrested for the rape and murder of another woman, Vernay Hanks. June did not know Vernay, but the dead woman’s child Cindy is also a student at June’s school. June feels responsible for the death, thinking the murderer took Vernay when he couldn’t get June. Without telling Bill, and under the false pretense of having been Vernay’s friend, June visits Cindy, who lives with her uncle Harlan. As June insinuates herself into their lives, she puts off telling Bill. As clues pile up, June rationalizes away her suspicions that Bill knew Vernay until the day Cindy appears wearing a bracelet that belonged to Bill’s mother. Confronted, Bill admits he had a year-long affair with Vernay. Although he apologizes, June’s trust is shattered and they separate. She continues to see the Hanks, both of whom she has begun to love, without mentioning her connection to Bill. Of course, they discover it and are devastated. Then it turns out the police arrested the wrong man. June’s eventual clarity is hard-won, but as a character she never quite jells.

Although Clement (Pretty Is as Pretty Does, 2001) can get preachy about the oppressed poor and the evils of war, she wrestles eloquently with some meaty issues: lies, responsibility, chance.

Pub Date: July 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-7266-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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