THE WEIGHT OF WATER

Though she fumbles slightly at the close, Shreve (Resistance, 1995, etc.) deftly juxtaposes a strained modern marriage and a century-old double murder. Jean is assigned to take photographs for a magazine piece about an ancient crime on the granite island of Smuttynose, off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She makes the journey to the island by sailboat, sharing the claustrophobic quarters with her five-year-old daughter Billie, her high-strung poet husband Thomas, his brother Rich, and Rich's girlfriend of a few months, Adaline. In 1873, two women were hacked to death on the island, and a third, apparently a survivor of the attack, was found hiding in a remote cave; a Prussian itinerant was convicted of the killings. In an uncatalogued archive in Portsmouth, Jean finds a pencil-written translation of the diary kept by Maren, the woman who survived, and, in a fit of pique caused by seeing her husband engrossed in conversation with attractive Adaline, she pockets it. And thus two dramas unspool side by side: On board, Jean focuses on the easy interaction between her husband and Rich's girlfriend and muses on the estrangement in her marriage. Maren's diary, meanwhile, describes her childhood in Norway and her incestuous love for her brother Evan. Married off to a taciturn fisherman, Maren settles on desolate Smuttynose, soon to be joined by her bad-tempered sister Karen and, later, by Evan and his new wife Anethe. Tortured by jealousy, Maren dutifully maintains her remote household, until, the diary tells us, her long-repressed rage is unleashed. It was, it turns out, Maren who killed Karen and Anethe. In present time, Jean ventures some betrayals of her own, and the small sailboat gets caught in a ferocious storm. The ensuing death at sea, however, feels unnecessary—a sort of cheap shot ending. The emotional losses depicted in the parallel stories are ultimately more haunting. Nonetheless, a highly readable yarn and a complex, convincing exploration of the ramifications of jealousy. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-78997-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more