Like a friend complaining about her love life, this novel, while resonant, is ultimately pretty boring.

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THE SWEET EDGE

A couple separates for the summer to ponder their relationship, among other things.

Ellen and Adam are at a crossroads. Though they have been dating for years, they are just coming to understand their fairly sizable differences. Ellen, the product of an urbane, upper-crust upbringing, is pretty, practical and bored. Adam, solidly middle class, has no desire to ever own a suit or attend a function that would require him to do so. He is inspired by obscure philosophy, intellectual banter and, above all, nature. Ellen halfheartedly follows Adam to Toronto, where he is enrolled in a nebulous Master’s program, and gets a job in an art gallery to pass the time while she dreams of an engagement ring. Meanwhile, Adam becomes close to Cara, a brash, brilliant lesbian he meets at school. When summer comes, Adam embarks on a solo 50-day paddling trip in the northern wilderness, leaving Ellen to fend for herself in the stiflingly hot city she has come to resent. It is a challenge for both—and one that will either save or end their teetering relationship. At first, Ellen is in denial, fantasizing that Adam will return ready to make a real commitment, but she finds herself swept up in a bustling social circle championed by an intriguing new coworker, Deborah, who is still haunted by a baby that she gave up for adoption years ago. Simultaneously, Adam, in the wilderness, fantasizes about a woman who would understand his relationship with nature, and tries to deal with his feelings for the two real women he has left behind—Ellen and Cara. Pick is adept at chronicling the details of a relationship in a believable way. But that’s also her problem: We all have enough Adams and Ellens in our own lives without turning to fiction.

Like a friend complaining about her love life, this novel, while resonant, is ultimately pretty boring.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-55192-783-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Raincoast

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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