Standard fare, but nicely seasoned: The spice of atmosphere and geography livens up a family saga and gives a fresh twist to...

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THE MANGO SEASON

A welcome second from Malladi (A Breath of Fresh Air, 2002), who sends a young expatriate back to her family in India and makes her grow up fast.

A bright girl from an ambitious Brahmin family, Priya studied computer science at Texas A&M and has a good job in Silicon Valley. Now on her first visit back to her family in more than seven years, she’s surprised at just how foreign India—with its dirt, heat, and traditions—has become to her. Her family is proud of her accomplishments, but they worry that, at 27, Priya is on the verge of becoming an old maid. She didn’t have the nerve to tell them about Nick Collins, her American fiancé back in San Francisco, so they took matters into their own hands by arranging a marriage for her to Adarsh Sarma, the handsome and very eligible son of a prominent local family. Americanized to look upon arranged marriages as monstrous and absurd, but still Indian enough to find it hard to defy her parents outright, Priya is in a bind. Plus, she thinks Adarsh is a hunk. And Nick has stopped returning her e-mails. Everyone is excited about setting up a double wedding with Priya and her aunt Sowmya (who has been assigned a considerably plainer and less desirable fiancé), and Priya is afraid that the arrangements will soon take on a momentum that can’t be stopped. What to do? Has Nick abandoned her? Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush? And does Priya really want, deep down, to be an Indian or an American? When there’s no time to sort out your thoughts, you have to go by your gut feelings, even if you can’t justify them.

Standard fare, but nicely seasoned: The spice of atmosphere and geography livens up a family saga and gives a fresh twist to a typical coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-45030-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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