Although the book falls short of fulfilling its potential, Hearth delivers a mildly amusing story featuring a wealth of...

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MISS DREAMSVILLE AND THE LOST HEIRESS OF COLLIER COUNTY

Hearth’s cast of quirky small-town Southern misfits returns to tackle new challenges in this sequel to her debut novel (Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, 2012).

Literary Society member Eudora “Dora” Welty Witherspoon has been living in Jackson, Missississippi, for several months, researching her family’s history, when she receives a telegram summoning her home to Naples, Florida. Returning posthaste, she learns her ex-husband, Darryl Norwood, is developing a housing estate that threatens to disturb the ecosystem and displace a number of residents, including former stripper-turned-alligator hunter Dolores Simpson. Dora tries to reason with Darryl but fails to make headway, so her old book club friends rush to her aid. Transplanted Bostonian Jackie Hart, known among Neapolitans as Miss Dreamsville, is outraged that Darryl has usurped her moniker and dubbed the development Dreamsville Estates. She airs her displeasure in a column for the local newspaper and reminds citizens that the ghost of a Native American who was killed by European settlers allegedly haunts the disputed land. Jackie’s editorial wins over some readers, but her words don’t stop Darryl. Amid moments of soul-searching and surprising revelations, the friends coordinate an alternate plan to save the property. As they take action, Dora contemplates information she uncovers about her family; Dolores reflects upon past decisions and longs for the return of her son, who’s living in New York City; and, acutely aware that they’re defying convention, two more book club members care for another’s infant while she attends college in a distant city. Hearth’s sound writing and wit create a pleasant diversion despite superficial attempts to introduce subject matter relevant to Southern society in the '60s and beyond. Her inclusion of topics ranging from racial injustice and single parenthood to economic development vs. environmental protection might have enriched the narrative and propelled it to the next level, but, sadly, these themes are never wholly integrated into the plot.

Although the book falls short of fulfilling its potential, Hearth delivers a mildly amusing story featuring a wealth of eccentric characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6574-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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