AMERICAN BRAT

Pakistan-born Sidhwa—who created the endearing Junglewalla clan in The Crow Eaters (1982)—limns the more sobering experiences of one of the clan's descendants in the States. A member herself of the ancient Parsi sect to which the Junglewallas—as well as the protagonist here, Feroza Ginwalla- -belong, Sidhwa makes this sect one of the many strands that affect young Feroza as she seeks to make a new life for herself. The only daughter of affluent Fareen and Cyrus Ginwalla, 16-year-old Feroza has enjoyed an indulged childhood. But when Fareen, uneasy with the growing fundamentalism in Islamic Pakistan, sees even her fearless and self-willed daughter sympathizing with the new dispensation (Feroza objects to Fareen's wearing a sleeveless sari-blouse), she decides to send the girl to the US for a three-month visit with her young uncle Manek, an MIT student—a visit that turns into four years at college and the decision to settle in the country Feroza loves ``despite her growing knowledge of its faults.'' It is the anatomy of the decision to stay on that makes this book so distinctive, as Sidhwa contrasts the warm, loving world of family and religious faith back home with the difficulties of Feroza's adjustment in a strange and colder place. The decision is based not only on the comforts the US offers but also, especially for a woman, on its tolerance and freedom. And though her love affair with a Jewish student falters over irreconcilable religious differences, Feroza realizes that one day she might marry—but now ``more sure of herself, she wouldn't let anyone interfere.'' Understandably less exuberant than Sidhwa's first novel (though scenes back in Lahore recapture some of the wry affection for family eccentricities)—but, still, Feroza exactly reflects the dilemmas of those born in the Third World who can flourish only in another.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-915943-73-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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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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