A successful portrayal of the complex psychology of an abuse victim and a gripping story of a love gone sour.

Love Sick

Debut novelist Bright impresses with a nuanced tale of a woman who can’t break free of an abusive relationship.

DJ Toni Jones may be a rising star on Charleston, South Carolina, radio, but her cool, professional exterior masks a troubled personal life. She and her suave husband, Marvin, are the ultimate power couple—she has a show on radio station Q101.5, and he’s part owner of the city’s hottest nightclub. But when Marvin’s dreams of a music production career collapse amid legal troubles, he turns violent, resentful of his wife’s success and jealous of the attention that she receives from other men. One of his vicious attacks nearly kills Toni, but she refuses to press charges and takes him back, much to her family’s dismay. Marvin cleans up his act (and skeptical readers may raise an eyebrow at this about-face), but the resulting period of domestic bliss is only temporary. His new job as a trucker keeps him away from home for days at a time, and soon, he’s romancing a sexy stripper named Angela. However, Marvin hasn’t lost his violent tendencies, and, eventually, Toni is forced to make a decision that will change her life forever. Bright’s fast-moving, engaging novel shows how even a strong, successful woman can find herself a victim of domestic violence. Subtle hints about Toni’s past illustrate how she learned to accept and justify violent behavior from men, and her rationalizations for taking Marvin back, though infuriating, make sense in the context of her character: “In the end, love and my determination to help him always overpowered me.” Marvin, for his part, is equal parts despicable and attractive; when he’s on his best behavior, it’s easy to see why Toni might be lulled into a false sense of security. He also has his own demons that help explain, but not justify, his behavior. The dialogue is spirited, and although some situations are overly dramatic, they never cross the line into unbelievability.

A successful portrayal of the complex psychology of an abuse victim and a gripping story of a love gone sour.

Pub Date: June 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9861923-1-9

Page Count: 380

Publisher: A Light Bulb Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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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

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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

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