Amiable, told briskly and with considerably style—and happily lacking in the mawkish cant that mars so many gay memoirs....

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THE YEAR OF ICE

A coming-of-ager about a gay teenager in the 1970s Twin Cities.

Kevin Doyle is the sort of outwardly normal midwestern type that Garrison Keillor works into his Prairie Home Companion routines. An easygoing jock at Northeast High in Minneapolis in 1978, Kevin hangs out with friends, gossips about who got sickest last Saturday, bags groceries at the Red Owl, and makes fun of his teachers behind their backs. He is also in love with classmate Jon Thompson. Kevin’s mother died in a car accident two years earlier, and the boy helps his father fend off the widows lining up for him by claiming his father is about to remarry, or has become a Muslim, or is moving away. Unfortunately for Kevin, the girls seem to be lining up for him, too, and he tries hard to avoid getting involved without letting on that he’s gay. One night, however, he is so horrified at finding his beloved Jon Thompson hitting on classmate Allison that he asks Allison out himself—and she accepts. Soon he finds he's fallen for Jon more deeply than he could have hoped. About the same time, he learns that his father had been seeing another woman when his mother had her accident—or could it have been suicide? Spiteful Aunt Nora is happy to provide plenty of innuendo, and Kevin takes advantage of his position at the Red Owl to wreak revenge on the other woman, a regular customer. Eventually, he comes to terms with his father and finds some measure of domestic peace, but Kevin also figures out that the best way to get on in life is to get on in the world—and move away from home.

Amiable, told briskly and with considerably style—and happily lacking in the mawkish cant that mars so many gay memoirs. First-timer Malloy is director of the Loft in Minneapolis.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-28948-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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