CLEMMIE

A young woman with no memory of her history or how she got to Still Waters Mental Hospital struggles to uncover the traumas of her past and solve the mystery of who she is.

Shelburne’s novel opens with the central mystery of the title character as she undergoes intensive therapy to discover why she has no memories of her life. Shelburne expertly weaves a complicated narrative through a series of flashbacks; readers are guided through Clemmie’s life as she recovers her missing memories and as she experiences the harsh realities of life in a mental hospital. As a child, Clemmie moves from Chicago to Savannah, Ga., with her mother and new stepfather, Roy. There she meets Daniel, a boy who becomes her best friend despite the fact that she is white and he is black, and they live in the contentious ’60s South. But Clemmie is destined for a life of tragedy, and it may be that the loss of Daniel is a memory that she doesn’t want to remember. Later, Clemmie’s family moves to Hilton Head, S.C., where Clemmie spends her teen years, and tragedy is again ever-present in her life. The book reads as a love letter to the South in many ways, and Shelburne describes the beauty of the distinctive coastal region in wonderful detail. As Clemmie remembers more of her past, drawing ever closer to the mystery of how she arrived at Still Waters, several characters emerge to populate her life. From Mama Rae, the mysterious woman who lives in the woods and practices voodoo, to Addie Jo, a malicious home-wrecker, to Jimmy Castlebrook, a man who may just be the love of Clemmie’s life, every character is rendered with unique details. At times, however, it feels as if characters come and go too frequently, a symptom of the scope of the story. Since the novel spans most of Clemmie’s life, it often moves along at a hurried pace, and moments and characters that should be lingered over are passed by too quickly in favor of advancing the story along. Likewise, emotional moments that should have a significant effect on Clemmie’s life sometimes feel glossed over and not fully explored. A fluid narrative that weaves through memory and time and an in-depth character study of a woman’s journey to recover herself.   

 

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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