An evocative, involving novel about how mystical powers can complicate one’s life.



A supernaturally gifted woman comes to terms with her past in Darr’s debut novel.

Springen “Spring” O’Flaherty is ready to begin her sessions with therapist Dr. Jill Martin, in part because she’s been keeping an extraordinary secret from the man she loves. From her earliest childhood as a preacher’s daughter in the Appalachian Mountains, Spring has been aware that she possesses a wide array (or “smorgasbord,” as she calls it) of psychic powers, from precognition to divination. Most prominently, she has the ability to see the multicolored auras that surround people, and she can also predict their natures and fates. She once confided to her best friend, Tommy Herndon, that her prayers for God to help her make sense of her gifts have gone unanswered. For Spring, “avoidance had become a way of life” because she’d hidden her special nature from most people; she ruefully admits that “most of the time being different wasn’t any fun at all.” But she’s determined to work through her memories so that she can embrace the promise of the present with district attorney Jed Collinsworth, with whom she’s dreaming of spending the rest of her life—and the process centers on coming to terms with a devastating tragedy. Overall, Spring’s story is memorable and affecting. Darr smoothly and skillfully handles a series of well-executed flashbacks in which readers see Spring gradually come to understand how her powers work as well as the personal toll they take on her; for example, after a trauma, she recalls, “I’d turned into a zombie. I was a fossil like those found flash frozen in the Arctic.” The author’s depiction of the simplicity and beauties of life in rural Appalachia are semipoetical highlights of the novel: “the bright green tree canopy was highlighted by a froth of color, courtesy of the wildflowers,” Spring observes on the day she first brings Jed to meet her family. Darr also provides wonderfully believable dialogue to every major and minor character in the story.

An evocative, involving novel about how mystical powers can complicate one’s life.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-942209-02-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bellastoria Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 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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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.


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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