THE TATTOOED MAP

Newcomer Hodgson weighs into the illustrated novel/journal genre, † la Nick Bantock's Sabine trilogy, with a multimedia tale of mystery, magic, and travel in North America crammed full of maps, pictures, old postcards, and magazine cuttings. Lydia, a researcher, and Chris, an antiques buyer and her former lover, set off on a six-month trip, starting in North Africa. Lydia, compulsive in her early journal entries, is soon overtaken by the hypnotic beauty of Morocco and vividly evokes the wondrous chaos of the markets, the exotic odors wafting on warm breezes, the intricacies of the ancient architecture. Her composure is eroded when, first in Tangier and later in Fez, she spies, watching her from across various cafes, the same handsome and mysterious man she saw in Morocco. While in Tangier, Lydia awakes one morning to find a cluster of flea bites on her wristmarks that gradually reveal themselves to be a tattoo forming a map running the length of her arm. She then finds and begins to follow a 1943 guidebook to Morocco. After she disappears, Chris reads her journal and soon uses it to record his own thoughts. He also meets, he thinks, the family of the handsome man Lydia claimed to have met; but unable to track her down after three weeks, he goes back home and reads through the same material Lydia had read before their trip. Realization dawning on him and now ensnared in the same mysterious world as Lydia, he returns to Morocco to find herwherever she may exist. Artistically less enthralling than Sabine, and a little too mysterious for its own good, but, still, it leaves a reader hungry for a follow-up: It's captivating but begs a better, or at least further, revelation of its secrets. (Over 65 color and 68 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1995

ISBN: 0-8118-0817-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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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