A thoughtful, stimulating collection.



Painful choices confront Schlink’s characters in the second story collection from the German author (The Weekend, 2010, etc.). 

They meet on vacation on Cape Cod. In "After the Season," the first of seven stories, Richard is a German immigrant, a flautist; Susan works for a foundation. He’s shocked to discover she’s filthy rich; Richard doesn’t like rich folks, but head-over-heels love sweeps him into a commitment to move in with her, though he’s loath to leave his gritty Manhattan neighborhood; these are his people. Richard is a plausible but not fully autonomous character in a very well-crafted story. Not quite so plausible is the protagonist of "The House in the Forest"; he too is a German immigrant, a novelist like his American wife. She’s successful, he’s not. They find an idyllic country hideaway in which to raise their little girl, away from the distractions of Manhattan; but how can the husband make their seclusion total? Credibility dissolves as his first act of vandalism propels him into madness. The most painful choice is faced by Thomas in "The Last Summer." The retired philosopher has inoperable bone cancer. Thomas will treat himself to a last summer with his family; when the pain becomes unbearable, he will take a lethal cocktail. His plan goes awry when his wife finds the bottle. Again, credibility suffers when she goes ballistic at a family gathering. Nina’s painful choice came during her youth ("The Journey to the South"). Should she leave her bourgeois family and prospective husband for the happy-go-lucky student she’s fallen for? She chose wrongly and now, a cranky old woman, is eaten up by regret. The fun story is "Stranger in the Night." The very proper Jakob is transfixed by the wild odyssey of his seatmate on a trans-Atlantic flight. Who could resist the story of a beautiful girlfriend, a swaggering sheikh, a suspicious death and five million euros? And now the stranger wants to borrow Jakob’s passport! 

A thoughtful, stimulating collection.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-90726-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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