Accomplished short-story writer Shacochis (Easy in the Islands, The Next New World) weighs in with an ambitious first novel that (like Susan Sontag's recent tome) mixes sexual intrigue, political revolution, and volcanoes. Like Sontag, Shacochis seems determined to convince readers of his seriousness, though he makes fewer concessions to simple readability. Set on a small island in the Lesser Antilles, this sprawling fiction includes extended dialogue in a Caribbean patois, lots of unexplained regional jargon, and not a little religious mumbo-jumbo thrown in for its lurid iconography. At the center of this ``world brimmed with queer opportunities'' is Mitchell Wilson, a 26-year-old economist working as a consultant to the Ministry of Agriculture on the island of St. Catherine. The naive American quickly discovers the surreal nature of island life—the inscrutable natives with their old folk ways; the educated class with its complicated political manipulations; his fellow expats, all part of the problem, not the solution. No character here appears without a story: Mitchell's buddy Isaac, a hard-working local ``bwoy,'' has disappeared for political reasons involving his dead father; Cassius Collymore, a poor and abused fisherman's son, grows up to be a vicious member of the secret police; and Kingsley, a double-talking conservative member of the government coalition, likes to play games with Mitchell's head. Among the various white people who find themselves in this unforgiving locale are: Sally, a good-hearted special-ed teacher from Kansas whose unspeakable naivetÇ leads to her brutal murder; Adrian, a New York yuppie whose pampered life is changed by what she witnesses; and Johanna, Mitchell's ex-lover who suddenly appears after a five-year absence that's included a bad marriage and drug-dealing. Overwritten and—worst of all—full of trite observations. Shacochis's lumpy novel lacks the very qualities that make his stories so remarkable: grace and economy.

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-684-19260-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1993

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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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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 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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