Addiction is complex; this story is not.

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Jane Doe Overdose

AN ADDICTION STORY

A heroin addict swings from rock bottom to stable in this novella.

Briones’ (Jane Doe: Gutted, 2013) series continues with the brief story of Miranda Anders, a woman whose childhood traumas and unfortunate friendships lead her into a lifetime struggle with heroin addiction. It all begins, of course, with her family: her father, Harry, is an “adrenaline junkie” who spends weeks away on skiing trips, and her plastic surgery– and sex-addicted mother, Virginia, sleeps around in his absence. One of Virginia’s partners includes Ted, Harry’s twin brother, who molests Miranda. Ted dies in a horrific car accident and Virginia commits suicide; and shortly afterward, Miranda steals thousands from her father and falls in with a junkie named Luke. Miranda soon finds herself living beneath an overpass, pickpocketing rich women in fancy restaurants. Doing this work she meets Sully, a proprietor of medieval-themed eateries, who somehow never worries too much about her unexplained past. They fall in love and get married within a paragraph: “The storybook marriage mirrored one of the paintings of Lancelot and Guinevere hanging in the lobby of his medieval restaurant. All perfect, all loving and soon including the addition of a son. Sully had found true happiness with Miranda. She too had found a true love. Except for her secret. Heroin.” Never mind the problematic illusion: Sully supports Miranda through her relapses, finding her good rehab facilities and eventually a good doctor, who diagnoses her with PTSD and a host of other illnesses (including Lyme disease and HIV). Briones, a medical doctor, uses these illnesses to explain Miranda’s behavior, and though her intention to inform trauma survivors of the natures of these conditions is positive, the diagnoses and miraculous cures make for an unsatisfying, too easy conclusion. Briones’ penchant for summarizing long stories over providing concrete scenes, her multiplication of incomplete side characters (such as the hospital’s doctors and homeless outreach volunteers), and her lack of deviation from a typical addiction narrative will invite further dissatisfaction with this story.

Addiction is complex; this story is not.

Pub Date: June 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5142-5614-5

Page Count: 98

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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