A talented writer’s lyrical but oppressive first work.

READ REVIEW

THE GOD OF ANIMALS

Growing pains and the loss of innocence on a desert ranch.

Kyle’s debut tracks the complicated, often punitive business of love from the preternaturally mature perspective of 12-year-old Alice Winston, whose father, Jody, knows more about horses than he does about running a successful business. After Alice’s older sister Nona—a brilliant rider and useful advertisement for the ranch—runs off to marry a cowboy, Jody is reduced to stabling boarders (the fine horses of bored, rich women) and trying to teach untalented but wealthy Sheila Altman to win at horse shows. Alice’s mother Marian is a bed-ridden depressive; Alice herself is preoccupied by the drowning of her schoolmate Polly Cain, who was in the habit of making phone calls to her English teacher, Mr. Delmar. Alice, lonely as well as sensitive to her father’s financial problems and her mother’s emotional ones, starts to make secret calls to Delmar herself. Kyle delivers the story in graceful, translucent prose, while the mood of the book is overwhelmingly bleak and steadily focused on the gathering storm. Fearful expectations are eventually realized as a sequence of disasters unfolds, starting with a horrific riding accident that leaves Jody’s possible lover Patty Jo badly damaged. Next, Delmar leaves and Alice, in distress, reveals to Sheila her father’s infidelities. Patty Jo’s accident precipitates the ranch’s ruin and a family argument brings about further cruelty, this time leading to the agonizing destruction of a horse. Although an unlikely gift leaves Alice with enough money to go to college, and Kyle wraps up by offering some perspective, it’s not exactly a happy ending.

A talented writer’s lyrical but oppressive first work.

Pub Date: March 15, 2007

ISBN: 1-4165-3324-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

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