A debut that requires great patience to detect changes in light and mood.



First-novelist Powning, with the deliberative touch of a nature writer, offers a slowly unraveling tale about a widow’s way of rejoining the world.

Husband Tom died of a heart attack at 52, and Kate is a year into her widowhood. Alone in a lovely old house on Canada’s maritime east coast, her two children grown and gone, she feels her heart swollen with memories she wants to share with Tom. Delving into antique hatboxes her sister has brought out of storage, she begins to read the crumbling letters of her grandparents, who lived in Shepton, 600 miles south. She learns that her grandfather Giles first actually loved and courted her grandmother’s sister, Jonnie, before Jonnie died in the 1915 diphtheria epidemic. In between solitary winter evenings reading the letters, and days working at the local library or teaching piano, Kate becomes reacquainted with an old friend of the family, Gregory Stiller, who has moved back to the province after the suicide of his son. Gregory seems troubled by his own reminiscences—Kate is a part of them—and tends to drink too much. His urging Kate to get out of the house and join him in athletic nature-pursuits always ends badly, and being with Gregory only makes her miss Tom more. Meanwhile, her childhood memories of Shepton become surpassingly beautiful, and she recognizes that her nostalgia is “a feeling we all share . . . the need for such a place,” and that her own home will become a Shepton for her children. Powning (Shadow Child: An Apprenticeship in Loss and Love, 2000, etc.) has a delicate and lyrical touch, but the story advances by the minutest increments, Kate directly addressing her husband throughout. By mining the old letters, she’s brought out of herself, but the letters themselves are tediously mundane, and Kate emerges only very subtly and skillfully altered.

A debut that requires great patience to detect changes in light and mood.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-34022-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?