An articulate and stirring Southern story written from the heart.



Four sisters keep vigil over their dying father and find themselves reminiscing over a bittersweet family history.

Goethe’s (River Bow, 2013, etc.) nostalgic and affecting novel is set in the Deep South and follows the lives of Matthew and Margaret Sobral and their four daughters: Rebecca, Elizabeth, Kate, and Emily. The book opens in the springtime of 1980 in south Louisiana. The girls’ mother has recently died, and their father has taken to his bed, stricken by a broken heart. As the daughters watch over their dying dad, they recall their childhood growing up in a progressive family in the racially prejudiced South. Intertwined is the story of their parents’ meeting and courtship, she a plucky newspaper reporter and he a genteel headmaster. The tale’s timeline is tacked skillfully and accurately to key historical events of the era. For example, Margaret and Matthew’s lives are affected by a GI—who owns the home they are renting— returning from war on the same day that Margaret gives birth to their first child. Similarly, the emergence of Elvis Presley and the John F. Kennedy assassination have significant impacts on the family, further enhancing the tale’s vivid realism. The sisters’ conversations paint a rich and colorful portrait of growing up in the South, as they recall playing “Devil in the Ditch” against a unique rural backdrop: “It was so scary, the scariest game I ever played,” Elizabeth asserts. And Emily replies, “Because the devil was alive to us….Whatever kid was in the ditch trying to catch us, drag us down, while we jumped back and forth across the ditch, whatever kid that was, truly became the devil.” This capturing of childhood innocence is juxtaposed with deliciously perceptive commentary from the narrator: “Later the sisters will blame their mother for almost everything wrong about them, or their lives. The mothers are the easiest to blame…too meek, too cloying or—in the case of Margaret Sobral—too remote. The mother tends to be the ‘sitting duck’ for the family shooting gallery.” The result is a moving, emotionally intuitive tale, littered with surprises, that brings a branch of the Sobral family tree vibrantly to life.

An articulate and stirring Southern story written from the heart.

Pub Date: May 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9995668-0-0

Page Count: 276

Publisher: 1948

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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


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.


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?