A gracefully written literary novel that perceptively examines one family’s struggles with the desire for social, sexual,...



A young boy grows into manhood under the weight of his Italian-American family’s ambition and repressed sexuality: an emotionally piercing, quietly beautiful third novel by the author of The Country of Marriage (not reviewed).

In 1961, when Luca Carcera is 11, his father takes him to see the site of their future home on “the Hill,” a new upscale suburb of Boston. For Luca’s social-climbing Uncle John, the Hill represents paradise, the family’s successful escape from the working class. But for Luca, the move will mark the shattering of his innocence. Luca’s father, Lou, is not terribly interested in outward appearances, which becomes clear when he leaves his wife and son for crude, red-faced Bob Painter, who works with the grounds crew at the plant where Lou is an accountant. At first Luca doesn’t understand where his father’s gone. Lou has simply disappeared with no explanation or discussion: that’s how this family deals with painful and momentous events. Throughout the story the pattern is repeated: Luca’s mother suddenly refuses her suitor’s marriage proposal; Uncle John’s son, George, comes back from Vietnam a damaged man. Luca is a sensitive narrator and observer of social events, a quiet boy who hides in the shadows, the quintessential outsider. He's haunted by his father’s sexuality and conflicted as to his own orientation: “It was like somewhere along the line I misplaced my own sexuality, and anyone could come along and define it for me. You, him, whoever.” With no one to talk to, Luca sleep-walks through the years until finally, as a grown man with his 12-year marriage crumbling, he arranges a meeting between his parents and connects with them in a way that allows him to surmount his fears and become a participant in his own life.

A gracefully written literary novel that perceptively examines one family’s struggles with the desire for social, sexual, and economic success.

Pub Date: March 16, 2001

ISBN: 0-679-45629-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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