Looks like literary fiction, smells like literary fiction, tastes like literary fiction—but sensational developments,...

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THE NEARNESS OF YOU

A young surrogate mother changes her mind and goes AWOL.

Suzette and Hyland Kendall, she a workaholic heart surgeon, he an unhappy architect, agreed early on not to have children. As the child of a severely mentally ill mother—her early memories include being rescued by a firefighter from a burning house while in an advanced state of malnutrition—Suzette will take no chances with her genes. But Hyland, who lost his parents and sister in a car accident when he was 11, has never given up his secret desire to see their faces in another generation. And now that surrogacy has become a convenient option, he is able to bring Suzette around to his side. Dorrie, the 21-year-old they meet through the Fertility Clinic of Houston, is planning to use her $35,000 fee to escape her job feeding penguins at Sea-O-Rama and fulfill her dream of going to college. Once pregnant, she realizes pretty quickly that she’ll never be able to give up her baby and hits the road before they even get the first sonogram. She hides out in a seedy motel in New Orleans, then helps a young girl ditch her junkie prostitute mom and return to the house FEMA kicked them out of. Here, amid the standing water and the mildew, the two camp out until the baby’s birth, which they manage themselves with a few books spread out on the floor. Twists, turns, and a big jump in time get us back to the setup in the prologue: a teenager lies in a hospital room on the brink of death. Two women and a man stand by her bed. “Which of you is her mother?” asks the nurse, but nobody seems to be able to answer the question.

Looks like literary fiction, smells like literary fiction, tastes like literary fiction—but sensational developments, tabloid situations, and clairvoyant dreams take Ward’s (This Same Sky, 2015,etc.) topical plot into telenovela territory.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-1018-8715-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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