A Southern saga creates a fully realized world with characters who are easy to get to know and root for; it’s a comfortable...

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This final installment of a trilogy, set in Somerville, Kentucky, offers a slice of small-town life.

The narrative follows former flight attendant Annie Taylor and her grandmother Beulah as they prepare for the holidays and Annie’s wedding. There are everyday snags—trying to arrange events around work duties, minor rifts with friends, medical hardships. Everyone knows one another in Somerville. And just about everyone is connected to everyone else, which makes life both familiar and fraught. Beulah’s old friend Betty Gibson tries to steal the community potluck dinner out from under her, and it seems they are done for good until Betty suffers a heart attack and Beulah helps to arrange for her care. Annie’s job at the nursing home is snatched from her, the second one she’s lost in a year. That makes it easier to schedule her wedding to Jake Wilder, her childhood friend, but it also means money will be tighter as he tries to get a farm started while working for the bank. Plans are further complicated when they decide to get married in Italy, where they recently discovered long-lost relatives. Annie’s mother died young, and her father has been mostly absent. Since he lives in Spain, she hopes he’ll make the ceremony, but that seems like a long shot. There are tragedies big and small in Correll’s (Guarded, 2015, etc.) novel. People die; opportunities vanish; old friends argue. But the effective, overarching themes are love and perseverance. Annie and Beulah head the strong, complex cast. Adjusting to adversity with dignity and an open heart, if not always an open mind, Annie recognizes that she will no longer travel the globe once she settles down. An old boyfriend provides a bit of agitation in her decision-making. Beulah, who has enjoyed a fairly settled life, must now meet new family members. She elects to open her home to poor souls with nowhere else to go. Correll displays a talent for evoking all the little details that make this town come alive: relatives who have a cornerstone at the local church and the damage a shepherd’s staff on Beulah’s Nativity set sustains when a feral cat gets loose in the house.

A Southern saga creates a fully realized world with characters who are easy to get to know and root for; it’s a comfortable place worthy of a return trip.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 283

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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