Heavy on sweet eccentricity and uplift, but what could be a better beach read than mermaids beating Mickey Mouse at his own...

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SWIM TO ME

A dreamy, semi-historical novel from Carter (The Orange Blossom Special, 2005, etc.) about a young girl who becomes a performing mermaid at the Weeki Wachee Springs, Fla., tourist venue, in 1970, just as Disney World is cornering the state’s tourism market.

Two years after her father Roy abandons the family, Delores Walker is living in the Bronx with her adored baby brother Westie and their hardworking but embittered mother Gail. For Delores, who has always loved swimming, a trip to watch the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee when she was nine remains a magical memory of family happiness. So at 16 she makes her way to Florida and is soon a star among the performing mermaids. Having all come to Weeki Wachee after being misfits in the real world, the mermaid girls bond into an informal family under the tutelage of tough but loving Thelma Foote. Struggling to keep her clientele as Disney World’s popularity soars, Thelma strikes a deal with a local TV station to use Delores as a weather girl. When Delores saves a child from drowning on-air during a hurricane, she becomes a national celebrity. Roy, who has found peace and his own sense of belonging while working with animals at Hanratty’s Circus outside nearby Sarasota, sees Delores on TV and hesitantly contacts her. They end up working together when Hanratty and Thelma join forces to establish a hugely successful business. Meanwhile, Gail has found a mentor at the magazine where she cleans offices at night. While taking a secretarial course to improve her career options, she reluctantly lets Westie visit Florida, where he joins Delores’s act. When Gail comes to pick up Westie, all four Walkers reunite as a family, at least briefly. Each has found the means to redemption, forgiveness and love.

Heavy on sweet eccentricity and uplift, but what could be a better beach read than mermaids beating Mickey Mouse at his own game.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-56512-492-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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