Unsatisfying, both as suspense and as an inquiry into our violent impulses.



Will a family camping trip turn deadly? Don’t hold your breath. Percy’s first novel, after two story collections (Refresh, Refresh, 2007, etc.), is a painfully slow tease.

Percy returns to the high desert and dense woods of central Oregon for his study of the Caves family. They live in Bend. There’s old man Paul, the hands-on owner of a company that builds cabins; his son Justin, burnt-out high-school English teacher, married to Karen, a dietitian; and Graham, their 12-year-old. They’ve been having problems. Paul’s recent heart attack has intensified his blustering machismo; Karen’s miscarriage has soured their marriage. Paul wants to revive a family tradition: a hunting expedition to Echo Canyon. It’s their last chance before the canyon disappears, victim of a major development. So the three males set off, leaving Karen behind; she loathes her father-in-law. A dark outcome is foreshadowed. There’s a TV report of a grizzly mauling two teenage girls, and a hostile local who resents these citified intruders. Justin finds a rotting corpse in the woods. At night, he can’t shake the feeling that they’re being watched; and what’s that sniffing outside the tent? These are standard come-ons. Back in Bend, a creepy vet is stalking Karen, and the Echo Canyon developer, more forthrightly, is trying to seduce her; both attempts fizzle, as the vet is felled by a migraine and the developer loses his dentures. These secondary story lines distract from the hunting expedition, where not all the drama is external. Paul, unmoored by the disappearance of his greatest love, his hunting dog, is itching for a fight with his son, who he sees as a wimp; his hostility explodes into a knockdown, drag-out fight. The author’s point about our primitive selves is a stale one, shackled to stereotypes. As for the great showdown between man and beast, it’s delayed until almost the end.

Unsatisfying, both as suspense and as an inquiry into our violent impulses.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55597-569-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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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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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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