Christian readers hungry for chick-lit may appreciate the effort, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else enjoying this...

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EMILY EVER AFTER

Chick-lit gets inspirational.

Emily Hinton is a small-town girl who’s always dreamed of moving to Manhattan, so when she lands a job at a big publishing house, it looks like she’s going to make the dream a reality. She’ll soon find out, though, that big-city life isn’t always compatible with her faith, and the biggest test of all comes in the tall, dark and handsome form of Bennett Edward Wyatt III. Will she succumb to the enticements of New York, or will she make a stand for everything she believes in? Such is the conflict at the heart of Emily’s tale, and it signals one of the many ways it differs from standard chick-lit fare. There’ll be readers, heretofore underserved by popular women’s fiction, who will appreciate the absence of sex. There may also be readers who find Emily’s struggles to reconcile her faith with modern existence both realistic and resonant. But there may also be those who find Emily’s vision of Christianity narrow and judgmental, and some of them may wonder why Emily is willing to lose her job rather than work for a company that publishes a book attacking God and traditional family—while she has no problem spending her Christmas editing an ultraviolent thriller. And without any doubt, some will find Emily’s dogged naïveté utterly exasperating. Throughout her cosmopolitan adventures, after all, she remains much given to bemused sentiments of the “only in New York!” variety. And readers with any knowledge of the ways of the world—not to mention the ways of romantic fiction—will quickly recognize Bennett as a straw man. His professed faith never makes sense—old-money and evangelical Christianity don’t often go together—and he reveals himself as a cad way early.

Christian readers hungry for chick-lit may appreciate the effort, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else enjoying this generally irritating entry.

Pub Date: June 21, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-51463-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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