GODMOTHER

The title is only half right: this sturdy distaff Godfather (Godfather II is actually a closer model) broadens out, in the sequel of the Godmother's son, to ape an even more venerable literary model. When a quarrel over the family honor leaves both her parents dead back in Miseno, teenaged Maria Croce Falcone, already married to one man and pregnant by another (a smooth-faced priest), leaves one day in 1920 for America, where she'll counter more of the same kinds of threats—from her beloved brother-in-law Claudio's brutal foreman; the blackmailing padrone who impregnates her with a second son; the rivalry, after she starts to sell her homemade brandy and grappa, of other bootleggers on the Lower East Side—with street-smart confidence and dispatch (she keeps the padrone's pickled privates in a canning jar). It looks like another routine jaunt through the roaring 20's for Mancini (Talons, 1991, etc.). But as the Falcone fortunes change with the 1950 ordination of Maria's son Angelo, so does the mode of the story, as accelerating allegorical details add a note of unintentionally hectic comedy. During his brief three-year ministry (which is initiated by the gift of his cousin Johnny's severed head), Angelo is launched on a political career by that fisher of men, Simon Fisher (who'll later deny him at his arraignment); tempted by fallen Lena Morales, who washes his feet and dries them with her hair; put on the spot by Jewish rival Herbert Koenig; betrayed by his old pal Junior Scario for 30 shares of a silver mine; arrested by hand-washing prosecutor Roman Pyle, whose wife had a nasty dream about a priest; and finally laid to rest after his body disappears from the morgue. Mario Puzo and the Synoptic Gospels: it doesn't get any tackier than this.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1993

ISBN: 1-55611-376-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more