The sensual but grim story of damaged souls never rises above a simmer.



Swedish novelist Swärd’s American debut chronicles the slightly off-kilter friendship between a young girl from an unconventional Swedish family and an older boy who has immigrated to Sweden from Hungary with his father.

Before her birth in 1969, Lo’s extended family moved to the more refined south from hardscrabble northern Sweden at the urging of Lo’s paternal grandfather, Björn. His son is Lo’s father, David, but the love between Lo’s parents is shadowed by the unspoken, unconsummated passion between Lo’s mother, Katarina, and Björn. Raised in a household of 13 adults—her parents, her grandparents on both sides and various aunts and uncles—Lo remains happily swathed in the family’s love and protection until she is 6, when she meets Lukas at a fire that has broken out in the village. Already 13, Lukas seems younger since he has barely been domesticated. He lives with his father, who speaks no Swedish and beats him. After he rides her home on his bicycle, Lukas and Lo form an immediate bond. Lukas is every mother’s nightmare—too old, too wild—and Lo’s family forbids their friendship. Lo is an able if disinterested student; Lukas can barely read. But Lo remains undaunted in her loyalty. For years, she and Lukas meet regularly at the abandoned cabin in the woods. They watch Katarina’s favorite French film Breathless and swim naked in the stream. They are physically at ease with each other’s bodies, but even after Lukas reaches horny adolescence, there’s no sexual experimenting. At 15, Lo travels to Copenhagen with Lukas, now a working adult, at least on the surface. His physical desire manifests itself. But his love remains pure. Lo’s does not. And her betrayal haunts her into adulthood. Interspersed with Lo’s recollections of her childhood are descriptions of her wandering adulthood and loveless adult sex life.

The sensual but grim story of damaged souls never rises above a simmer.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-02654-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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