High-toned escape with palatable preaching and beautiful scenery.



Ghosts of the Spanish settlers and lingering effects of the Manhattan Project pleasantly spook the atmosphere in a New Mexican family drama.

The landscape is purple and tan, the humidity low, the manors adobe, but the family dynamics are as realistically complex and, well, cozy as one of those nice Aga sagas that the Brits ship over by the ton. Morrow (Giovanni’s Gift, 1997, etc.) sets the ghost of Dona Francisca de Pena, free-spirited 18th-century descendent of the Conquistadors, floating (but not meddling) around the family acres in greater Santa Fe, where, gradually fading, she observes the lives of her own offspring, the Montoyas, and is herself occasionally sighted. The Montoyas are mostly unpretentious ranchers, horse people whose common sense is badly needed by the Anglos who wander into their pastures. Most of the needy non-grandees have connections to the Ur-techies who came in the ’40s to test the limits of atomic theory. Kip Calder and Brice McCarthy had physicist fathers and shared a Los Alamos boyhood and friendship that soured in the ’60s when Kip skipped out on his pregnant girlfriend, who wound up marrying Brice. Kip went to Southeast Asia and became a spook; Brice went to law school and became a liberal cliché. Now Kip, dying from cancer, has returned, and Ariel Rankin, his abandoned daughter, herself pregnant from a broken affair, has at last responded to feelers Kip put out at a reunion with Brice three years earlier. Kip, nursed from near-death at Sarah Montoya’s nursing home, has become part of the family, but when Ariel reaches New Mexico and picks up her father’s trail, he has disappeared on a last adventure with plucky widower Delfino Montoya to reclaim the ranch the feds snatched for their proving ground. Subplots abound, including an actress trapped in a character she created, until everything knits up as tidy as Twelfth Night.

High-toned escape with palatable preaching and beautiful scenery.

Pub Date: June 3, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03095-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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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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