A well-written, fascinating look at day-to-day life in a nation on the brink of collapse.

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Double Rainbow at Full Moon

SURVIVING THE COLLAPSE OF ZIMBABWE

In this novel set in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, a Danish former diplomat and her Canadian husband cope with hardships as the country’s economy collapses in the wake of Robert Mugabe’s disastrous land reforms.

As a seasoned diplomat, Bodie has lived all over the world and experienced many cultures. Since the 1990s, she and her husband, Clyde, have been in Africa, mostly in Zimbabwe. Clyde, who runs a plant that produces agricultural carts, is currently recovering from lung cancer. But unfortunately for them, the president of the country, Robert Mugabe, recently embarked on a campaign of discriminatory land reform, which led to international sanctions, resulting in the collapse of the country’s economy. Clyde and Bodie must endure the subsequent hyperinflation, food shortages, power outages and the harassment of whites. Yet through it all, as she goes from place to place searching—sometimes in vain—for the basic necessities, she and her friends and acquaintances meet and talk and share drinks and generally do what they must to maintain some semblance of a normal life. Bodie’s story unfolds as a series of episodes, ranging from the poor treatment her sick, white piano teacher received at the hospital to the kidnapping of her husband. Through it all, Bodie and Clyde look for a way out without completely giving up on the business they’ve worked so hard to build. Told in the first person, Sim’s novel unfolds in crisp, matter-of-fact prose. She has a keen eye for cultural differences, and she presents life in Zimbabwe in clear detail. Her character sketches bring the people suffering under Mugabe’s rule into sharp focus, the only exception being Clyde, who never seems to come fully to life in the way other characters do. But that’s only a minor quibble in this otherwise excellent and informative book.

A well-written, fascinating look at day-to-day life in a nation on the brink of collapse.    

Pub Date: May 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1897435908

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Agio Publishing House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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