Seems to be not much of anybody home here, though actual inhabitants may not always be a requirement for the...

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THE TROUBLE WITH CATHERINE

A poorly considered betrothal to a loathsome man falls apart in a not-particularly-interesting fashion in this debut from a child model and occasional comic.

As much as its musings about being a 29-year-old single woman in Manhattan seem like leftovers from the last five novels of its ilk, Hruby did come up with an unusual occupation for its main character—wholesale fish buyer. Catherine Lacey is on the verge of marrying Steve, a monied, arrogant bastard of a lawyer who’s desperate to make partner and is increasingly dismissive of Catherine’s wants and needs. As Catherine’s narration incessantly reminds us, she grew up blue-collar: gutting fish, hanging out with dockhands, and having no-strings affairs. This doesn’t sit well with Steve as the two get closer to being married, and the resulting pressure on Catherine is creating some big rifts in their relationship. Pretty soon the wedding’s off. Even though this is what she wanted, Catherine is conflicted, having the not-entirely-incorrect feeling that she’s one of the last women in her circle of acquaintances neither married nor on the verge of it. Hruby’s tale seems to think of itself as a light and entertaining read about relationships but takes itself much too seriously for that to work. In a novel where little is going on in the way of plot, the narrator needs to have an interesting inner life, or at least an engrossing conversation or two. But instead of interiority, Hruby offers only more background data about Catherine—ladled up in lumps and dollops throughout—as if hoping in this way to endow her with breath and life. It just doesn’t happen.

Seems to be not much of anybody home here, though actual inhabitants may not always be a requirement for the single-girl-in-the-city genre.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94640-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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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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