Pathos plus characters who are puppets of fate equals a pleasant melodrama.

Warren Lane

In Diamond’s debut, a random series of events leads to five adrift people tangled up in each other’s lives, with sometimes-disastrous consequences.

Susan Moore, Will Moore, Mark Ready, and Ella Weyland are all lost. Susan suspects that her husband is cheating on her. Will’s a philanderer all right and engaged in some very dirty business dealings besides. Mark is 28 and rudderless, seeing only his way to the next drink or fix. Ella can’t hold down a job so instead turns to men. Their lives collide when Susan decides to hire Warren Lane, a sleazy private detective who divides his time equally between blackmailing and investigating. When a mix-up leads Susan to accidentally hire Mark to investigate her husband instead of Warren, events begin a downward spiral. Suddenly Mark is sleeping with both Will’s mistress and his wife. Instead of going back home to try to restart her modeling career, Ella is staying put, trying yet again to find herself in a relationship. Will has no idea how to extricate himself from shady deals that have gotten to be far more complicated than he can handle. And everyone thinks it’s Warren’s fault. These encounters with pain, hope, and loss make the book engaging. Almost every reader will relate in some way to the protagonists’ sense of being adrift and unsure of where to go. Ella sums up this universal feeling when she tells Mark that he is, “A kind person, with a good heart. Who’s a little lost. Like me.” When books tap into themes like this, however, there is an expectation that they will offer up insight about how we detangle ourselves from such situations, or even how we don’t. It’s a bit of a letdown, then, when the characters don’t actually deal with their problems, which are, for the most part, magically solved. Not quite deus ex machina but close. It makes for a story that is sweet but not necessarily satisfying.

Pathos plus characters who are puppets of fate equals a pleasant melodrama.

Pub Date: May 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9963507-0-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Stolen Time Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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