A few flaws but entertaining and romantic.

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MARY POSER

BUTTERFLIES AND WHITE LIES AS BOLLYWOOD COMES TO NASHVILLE

In A’s debut novel, an update of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a Nashville woman struggles with perfectionism, attraction to a Hindu filmmaker, and an overbearing mother.

Mary Poser, 23 as the novel begins, was raised to be sweet, accommodating, and cheerful. A social worker, she spreads herself thin, always running late as she frantically tries to catch up with her many commitments. Mary’s mother, a Baptist pastor’s wife, nags her to get married: “he has to be Southern, he has to be Christian, and it helps a lot if he plays the guitar”—but Jason, the mother-approved wannabe country star, has recently dumped Mary. At the Nashville Film Festival, Mary meets Simha Das, a beautiful, young filmmaker, whose next project is a Bollywood version of Persuasion. They share an instant attraction and spend the night kissing. Upset with herself, late, and trying to text and drive the next day, Mary’s car flips over a bridge into the river. She has a life-altering vision of Simha, his moonstone ring glowing with white light as he tugs her upward from watery death, but she keeps the vision to herself, becoming phobic of the bridge. Simha pursues her with sweet thoughtfulness, philosophical musings, and a night of incredible passion, but Mary feels trapped by others’ expectations. She avoids Simha and allows Jason back in her life, even though he’s far less romantic, considerate, and intelligent. Will she have a second chance to be persuaded by true love? In her debut novel, A makes excellent use of her colorful, well-described Nashville backdrop. A drawback is that Mary’s waffling and inability to stand up to her mother are developed at exasperating length. Simha is obviously perfect, maybe too perfect, while Jason is obviously a dud to almost everyone; when Mary calls herself an idiot, readers may agree. But she’s stronger than she knows, as readers can also see. Apart from overdwelling on Mary’s indecision, the novel succeeds, offering some hot erotic scenes, some surprises, a good metaphor in the uncrossable bridge, and a heroine who grows in understanding herself and her spirituality.

A few flaws but entertaining and romantic.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9876222-2-8

Page Count: 478

Publisher: Angel's Leap

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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