Bracing and raw portrait of the inner life of a directionless, if passionate, suburban rebel.



The dark heart of a 1960s Levittown family is artfully revealed.

Shapiro (Life and Love, Such as It Is, 1999, etc.) chronicles the high-school years of Maude Pugh, the misunderstood daughter of a self-important artist and a socially awkward mother. The Pughs live in a house that seems to be the clone of a thousand others, but on the inside is utterly unique; her father has painted all the walls black to better display his artwork. Maude’s best friend Weesie thinks the house is a marvel, but Maude yearns for the understated elegance of Weesie’s upper-class Long Island manor. If the interior of Maude’s house is unusual, the interior of her family is even more so. Her mother and father split up over the course of the narrative, and her older brother Seth, unabashedly idolized by her parents, has disappeared from their lives, leaving Maude to bear the brunt of her parents’ brutalizing emotional eccentricities. Maude, chafing at her family’s restraints, secretly applies and wins a scholarship to attend Bay Farm, an elite private high school. Once there, Maude is introduced to both class ambition and class division: Her parents are uncomfortable because she is moving up the social ladder; her classmates fetishize her because she is an artist’s daughter with all of the requisite quirks; and Maude herself is caught between the knowledge that she doesn’t really belong among the very wealthy and a new sense of class difference. When Maude loses her scholarship and enrolls in community college, she finds herself even more of an outsider. Although the plot appears to follow the usual coming-of-age story are by concentrating on a typically angst-ridden adolescent girl, it has none of the loss-of-innocence rhetoric or false family resolutions that characterize the genre. Shapiro’s portrait of Maude is knife-sharp; she completely inhabits the consuming inner world of a painfully intelligent adolescent girl, showing Maude’s every mood, thought and desire with piercing clarity.

Bracing and raw portrait of the inner life of a directionless, if passionate, suburban rebel.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-56947-431-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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