A lovingly constructed, engrossing novel about an African-American family and hamlet.



Ross tells the story of a woman searching for peace in a threatened black community in the Hudson Valley.

Raised in a Roman Catholic orphanage in Baltimore, Bibsy arrives in New York to live with her sister and experience the Harlem nightlife of the 1950s. Her path takes an unexpected turn, however, after a chance encounter with Jake Tucker, a boisterous, light-skinned widower from a rural bend in the Hudson River who has come down to the city to get drunk and meet women. The two hit it off, and Bibsy returns with Jake to the Beach, his small outpost of black America in upstate New York, where he and his family subsist on hunting animals and growing vegetables. Adjusting to rural life takes some getting used to, particularly for Bibsy, who is trailed by her own unwelcome memories of childhood and familial complications. And yet country living seems liberating, far away from the expectations of urban life: “Jake’s place was so unkempt he couldn’t have made a worse mess on purpose,” she observes upon first reaching the Beach. “Everywhere else she’d lived had been very orderly and spotless; and she’d been expected to help keep it that way.” Their paradise becomes endangered, however, by plans to extend the state’s road system with a new bridge, and their quiet hamlet may be swallowed up by the encroaching threat of suburbanization. Ross is an infinitely humane writer, and her characters in this debut novel burst with humor and warmth. The love story of Jake and Bibsy remains endearing despite their flaws: it has the lived-in weight of a real love affair, not simply a literary creation. Bibsy’s back story, delivered piecemeal over the course of the book, provides just enough mystery to keep the reader hooked, but the true achievement is the revelation of small-town life among African-Americans in the middle of the last century. Readers are extremely familiar with depictions of Harlem, but the fictional Langston County provides a seldom-seen glimpse into a real piece of New York history, one that subsequent human migrations have erased from the map.

A lovingly constructed, engrossing novel about an African-American family and hamlet.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4969-6589-9

Page Count: 386

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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