An engaging tale about the meditative life whose hip-hop stylings make the enlightenment lighthearted.



A despondent rapper gets his groove back with the help of an Indian guru in this debut novel–cum–self-help guide.

A-Luv, an American rap superstar and son of Indian immigrants, enjoys a Malibu, California, mansion along with “an iced-out Rolex, massive diamonds in his ears, and countless rings and bracelets.” But his bling-obsessed ethos has saddled him with depression, loneliness, drug addiction, and a creative drought. His agent steers him to the Indian town of Laxman Jhula, by the holy River Ganges in the Himalayan foothills, and to Guddu, a jeweler and spiritual leader of a yoga retreat center. Guddu has an “inner glow that feels pure” and a thunderous laugh—“AH ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah!”—that echoes through the book. A-Luv agrees to learn about his “high vibe lifestyle,” based on Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Central to the creed is a mystic metaphysics, which maintains that “everyone is made of energy, which means we’re all the same inside, and connected,” and advocates the quieting of the egoistic, ever distracted “monkey mind” through the cultivation of the soul’s awareness by meditation. Guddu’s fetching assistant, Nikki, puts A-Luv through meditative exercises, like staring at a candle flame. Soon, his awareness and powers of concentration burgeon along with his attraction to Nikki. A dangerous whitewater rafting trip down the Ganges with Guddu teaches A-Luv more lessons on the “Five Fingers of Life,” a doctrine that emphasizes being present in the moment, accepting and dealing with the world even when it’s capsizing your raft, and treating life as a flow of playfulness and creativity. Seth, an entrepreneur and music producer, conveys the warmhearted book’s sometimes-esoteric Eastern wisdom in a down-to-earth way. The mechanics of meditation are illustrated in a straightforward fashion (“Focus on the rhythm and the sensations of your breathing. The warmth of the air, the sensations in your nose”). And the basic insights—focus, avoid neurotic rumination, take things as they come—are couched in pragmatic Western tones (“You can’t eliminate head trash without changing your beliefs”). The author’s prose is a bit didactic, but A-Luv’s common touch—“Almost every person I admire has meditation as a common denominator….I was like yo, maybe this is for real”—keeps things reasonably fresh.

An engaging tale about the meditative life whose hip-hop stylings make the enlightenment lighthearted.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5445-0553-4

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Flow Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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


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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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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