Entertaining slice-of-life tales from lives just to the left of reality.




In this collection of seven speculative short stories, Kelleher’s (Love’s Labyrinth, 2015, etc.) characters magically abduct celebrities, put their elderly parents up for adoption, consider cyborg enhancement, and more.

In “Free to Good Home,” Marvin wonders what his life would be like with a different mother, one who doesn’t burn the gefilte fish or wander off to strip clubs. Luckily, his near-future society acknowledges that “just because someone gave birth to us, it doesn’t mean you’re a good long-term fit.” But he’s never considered whether his mother would be just as pleased with a different son. In “After the Rapture,” Bess and her wife, Kitty, wake up after the collapse of the world as they knew it—a common motif in fiction these days, though Kelleher intriguingly suggests that those left behind might be better off. “Enhanced” takes place in a world where professional athletes are more machine than human, and parents who never lived up to their own dreams of stardom sacrifice their children to be rebuilt. And the four stories in the “Celebrity Supernatural” series examine our obsession with actors and musicians from various angles: in “Conjuring Johnny Depp,” a witch tries to give her friend a birthday present she’ll never forget; “Finding Southside Johnny” gives a middle-aged guitar player gets a second chance to live the life he always wanted; and in “Raising Jerry Garcia,” aging potheads on the Jersey Shore try to bring back to life the Grateful Dead frontman through math and music in the aftermath of a hurricane. Finally, “Walking with Elvis” portrays a town whose citizens have given up more than they know for their utopic existence. Kelleher is a skilled writer whose stories begin in worlds fully formed, fleshed out through dialogue and character rather than clumsy exposition. And she knows how to hold back details and leave readers wanting more, especially in “Walking with Elvis” and the idyllic but celebrity-zombie-ridden village of Stanton’s Fall.

Entertaining slice-of-life tales from lives just to the left of reality.

Pub Date: March 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0692408186

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Pond House Press

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2015

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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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