Ursula K. Le Guin would approve. An effective, memorable tale.

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THE BEAR

A moving post-apocalyptic fable for grown-ups.

We’re not entirely sure why it is that an unnamed man and his unnamed daughter are an endangered species, but we do know, after the man dies, that the animals call her “the last one.” Before his demise, the man teaches his daughter how to hunt, make snowshoes and arrows, comprehend the ways of the trees and the seasons in their mountain stronghold; they read “poetry from poets with strange names like Homer and Virgil, Hilda Doolittle and Wendell Berry, poems about gods and men and the wars between them, the beauty of small things, and peace,” and they talk night and day about the things that matter. Krivak (The Signal Flame, 2017, etc.) delivers no small amount of poetry himself in what might have been a cloying exercise in anthropomorphism, for once the preteen daughter is alone, a noble-minded bear takes care of her, avoiding “the place of the walls” where humans once dwelled in favor of alpine lakes and, in winter, a remote cave. A puma joins in the adventure to provide food while the bear sleeps, assuring her that she will become part of a story “for the forest to remember for as long as there is forest beneath the sun.” Part of the girl’s task is to bury her father on the distant mountaintop next to her mother’s grave, then, as the years pass, to honor them, “a girl no longer, though forever their child.“ A literary rejoinder of sorts to Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us (2007), Krivak’s slender story assures us that even without humans, the world will endure: The bears and mountain lions will come into their own in a world of buckled roofs and “ruined books,” and they themselves will tell stories under the light of the Great Bear. That’s small comfort to some humans, no doubt, but it makes for a splendid thought exercise and a lovely fable-cum-novel.

Ursula K. Le Guin would approve. An effective, memorable tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-942658-70-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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