A leisurely, credible recreation of the Lone Star past.

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TEHANO

A Texas-sized novel of the way west-by-southwest.

When we first meet Gideon Jones, Portis Goar and Knobby Cotton, we’re on the outskirts of Cormac McCarthy country: After all, Knobby has just shot Portis—better known as Eye, though Eye Goar is probably not meant to call Young Frankenstein to mind—plumb through the chest, and Jones, “the itinerant drummer of lightning rods, self-taught undertaker, and fledgling journalist” is busily packing cedar sap into the wound to stop the bleeding. We never quite enter the territory, though. Wier’s language is less exacting and less exalted than McCarthy’s, and though it has something in common with that of Blood Meridian, the action is deliberate and sometimes mannered, without McCarthy’s spasms of violence. Weir (Writing/Univ. of Tenn., Knoxville) nods at other books, especially Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, in this ambitious novel of the troubled settling of Texas, once populated by characters with names such as Melon Breasts Woman and White Rump. There are many ghosts and half-buried skulls about this multicultural place, where Yankees mingle with Rebels and blacks and Comanches and Germans and various mixes of the aforesaid, the blend of people who would come to be called Tejanos. Like soldiering for the ill-fated Confederacy, as one character observes, Wier’s narrative strands often “don’t turn out the way you expected,” notably in the matter of a poor fellow named Alexander Wesley, who carries his amputated arm with him and pays a steep price for his devotion to his former limb. There are surprises and solid payoffs in the twisting plotline, which weaves the stories of many characters, the luckiest of whom make it through in one piece and alive to do the business of settling the West—until, that is, Wier brings this long, winding tale to a close and bumps off even the most likable of them.

A leisurely, credible recreation of the Lone Star past.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-87074-506-9

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Southern Methodist Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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