In all, then, a multigenerational cast turns mediocre chick-lit into a refreshingly different kind of contemporary romance.

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WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?

Three women talk about love.

Young, beautiful, used to getting her way, Aisha Branch is planning a wedding as ostentatious as her engagement ring. Her daddy barely blinks when she picks out a $7,000 gown, and her fiancé—a seriously rich white boy—is able to offer her the choice of several family estates for the ceremony. Everything changes, though, when Aisha falls for an enigmatic older man. Little (Acting Out, 2003, etc.) brings out some sharp social commentary through the contrasts between newly affluent African-Americans, on the one hand, and Upper East Siders, on the other, who had ancestors on the Mayflower. But, unfortunately, her heroine is too status-conscious and materialistic to be appealing, and Aisha’s signs of character growth—when she finally does get married, she buys a dress off the rack—aren’t very convincing. Meanwhile, her mother, Camille, and her grandmother, Geneva, are much more engaging, and the story does considerably better for itself when they do the talking. Camille got pregnant at 19 and later spent her life doing what she could for others—both as a mother and as a social worker. Now, at middle-age, she rediscovers herself as a sexual being and forges a life-changing friendship with the mother of Aisha’s biological father. As for Geneva, although apparently the very model of “Negro respectability,” she surprised everyone—even herself—by falling in love with a jazz musician. She spent most of her marriage on the road with him, creating an all but unbridgeable distance between her and her children. By end, though, she’s overcome the disappointments and prejudices that made reconciliation with them impossible. It’s a rare novel that depicts older women as real people capable of change, which makes Little’s portrayal of Camille and Geneva as admirable as it is entertaining.

In all, then, a multigenerational cast turns mediocre chick-lit into a refreshingly different kind of contemporary romance.

Pub Date: May 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-684-85482-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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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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