A well-rendered tale of a not-so-pretty family.



With an engaging vitality, second-novelist McFadden (Sugar, 2000) explores a familiar subject—a daughter’s troubled relationship with her abusive alcoholic father.

McFadden has perfect emotional pitch and tone, telling it like it is when, in December of 1999, Kenzie Lowe’s father Hy-Lo, unconscious and hooked up to tubes, lies dying in a hospital. As Kenzie finds herself visiting him with increasing frequency, she not only recalls her childhood in Brooklyn, but also the reasons why she hates Hy-Lo so much. An Army veteran, he had a good job, and initially the family lived well, but Hy-Lo began drinking and was soon beating his wife Della, as well as Kenzie and her younger brother Malcolm. While she now sits by Hy-Lo’s bedside or takes the bus to the hospital, she remembers his way of ordering them to choose one of his three belts and how the children “agonized over which would hurt the least”; the time he killed her cat with a hammer; and the day when, at13, she tried to stop him from hitting Della, who by now was also drinking heavily. Instead, she was so badly beaten herself that her ribs broke. Later, the family had to move to public housing when Hy-Lo lost his job, but a supportive grandmother encouraged Kenzie to get a good education. Which she did, though she had begun hitting the bottle too and was soon both unemployable and unable to sustain any relationship with a man. Now 35 and living on Social Security, Kenzie is a recovering alcoholic, still fighting temptation, and, as the days wind down to Christmas, beginning to understand why her father couldn’t stop drinking. A chance encounter that tells her something more about his childhood also helps, and she’s finally able to accept that her hatred is being sculpted “into understanding and forgiveness.”

A well-rendered tale of a not-so-pretty family.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94564-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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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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