A study of one man’s determination to defeat fear, weakness, and cancer.

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THE LIFE AND LESSONS OF A MAN WHO BEAT CANCER FOR 57 YEARS

An exercise physiologist and sport psychologist responds to his lifelong disease struggles with intense athleticism and risk-taking in this fictionalized biography.

Mark is 8 years old when he has his first surgery for neurogenic sarcoma, a type of cancer that produces recurring tumors throughout the body. His doctors tell him that the lump is “gone forever,” which is only the first of many medical failures in treating Mark’s rare disease. Hopeful and determined, Mark throws himself into physical activity, a pattern that persists throughout his life. Haunted by the constant specter of impending mortality, he cheats death over and over by pushing himself to feats of daring—jumping off a nine-story bridge, setting a scuba-diving record for time underwater, sky diving. When, at 65, he receives the dire diagnosis of innumerable tumors that finalizes his death sentence, he enters hospice care. There, he continues to insist on life and dignity through relentless physical exertion, timing his walks down the halls with his IV pole in tow. The novel recounts the life and experiences of Mark Crooks, a friend and mentor of Green’s (Questions of the Spirit, 2017, etc.). The author has created a memorable protagonist in Mark, driven and resolute yet deeply vulnerable. Mark’s obsession with his own physical fitness and his occasional disdain for those less disciplined make him somewhat unsympathetic at times. But the image of the 8-year-old Mark, “angry” and “lonely,” building himself up with barbells after his first surgery, gives insight into the development of his single-minded character. Also notable are the chapters like “Nemesis” that are written from the point of view of the cancer. While it is intriguing to see the protagonist’s perception of the disease, lines such as “I hate Mark, every fiber of his being…I loathe the life force bubbling through his arteries and veins and the meticulously complicated wiring of his muscles with nerves” seem a convoluted way to express his anger about his illness. But the book ends on a note of defiant joy followed by an afterword in which Green eloquently describes his relationship with the real Mark.

A study of one man’s determination to defeat fear, weakness, and cancer.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-36629-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Brent Green & Associates, Inc.

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

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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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