A captivating story of loss, forgiveness and ultimate redemption.

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CLOSE YOUR EYES

Lauren Mahdian believes her father "ruined everything, everything, everything" in Ward’s (Sleep Toward Heaven, 2004, etc.) literary novel.

Lauren is just past 30, lives in trendy Austin, Texas, with her boyfriend, works as a real-estate agent and has one anchor in her somewhat neurotic life, her older brother, Alex. Lauren’s certain her father killed her mother, a murder that occurred when Lauren was eight and the family lived in New York. Alex, even though believing their father innocent, has been her pillar of emotional support throughout their life with maternal grandparents, through college and beyond. Their father, Izaan Mahdian, was an Egyptian immigrant, a writer, but a man whose Jewish-American wife, Jordan, was the family breadwinner. In the afterglow of a party, Jordan was killed by a blow to the head. Izaan was convicted of her murder and has spent two decades in prison. Lauren's logic, and a shadowy memory, tells her Izaan is guilty, but her heart constantly reminds her that belief is counter to all that she knew and loved about her parents. The novel opens with Alex leaving for Baghdad to serve with Doctors without Borders. Alex is soon declared missing after a car bombing, pushing Lauren further toward collapse. The story grows more complicated when, in Book Two of the novel's five, Sylvia Hall leaves her boyfriend at a Colorado ski resort and heads to her childhood home in New York City. Sylvia is 41 and pregnant, and she is linked to Lauren in a manner which Lauren cannot comprehend. Lauren is a realistic, sympathetic protagonist. Her relationship with her boyfriend and Sylvia's relationship with hers eerily mirrors the relationship of Izaan and Jordan, but that remains symbolic rather than fully explored. Ward writes familiarly of Austin, and of New York City, and her writing, laced with literary prose, moves the narrative forward believably.

A captivating story of loss, forgiveness and ultimate redemption.

Pub Date: July 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-49448-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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