The inconsistency in tone at the close is disappointing, though fans will welcome yet one more exploration of American...



Old South sensibilities, sparkling Charleston, and a group of aging socialites—all merge with an unshakable love for the land.

At 35, Anny Butler is semi-committed to singlehood, happy with her job helping disadvantaged children (she’s had plenty of experience, having raised her siblings while her mother drank away the days). That is, until she meets Dr. Lewis Aiken. Though both are Charleston natives, they may as well have come from separate worlds: Lewis had a boyhood of beach houses, a youth of cotillions, marriage to a beautiful, fussy wife, and weekends at the yachting club. Now divorced, popular Lewis sweeps Anny off her feet, and soon the new Mrs. Aiken meets the Scrubs. Lewis, Henry, Camilla, and Lila have been friends since their blue-blooded childhood; now nearing 50, they share (spouses come along) the beach house that they’ve been visiting all their lives. The Scrubs (they all have some connection to medicine) welcome Anny, and the years pass in an idyllic camaraderie (particularly poignant are Anny’s reveries about the Carolina Low Country). Wealthy and pleased with themselves, the eight flit from the shared beach house to their city mansions and their old plantation homes, while occasionally doing some good charitable work. This tour of the lifestyles of the rich and unfamous holds a certain prurient interest, and, thankfully, Siddons’s talent makes down-to-earth Anny’s narrative likable enough despite strangely unsympathetic people (they’re snobs, with antiquated ideas about race). As the years progress, tragedy threatens the unity of the group as they begin succumbing to both natural and unnatural deaths. But the indomitable (if not very nice) Camilla holds them together until the end, when the tale switches to a burning southern gothic replete with insanity, a faked illness, secret diaries, unrequited passion, and murder by fire.

The inconsistency in tone at the close is disappointing, though fans will welcome yet one more exploration of American southern life á la Siddons (Nora, Nora, 2000, etc.).

Pub Date: April 9, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-621111-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2003

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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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