This tale of two survivors should move you, cajole you, upset you, and seduce you.



A homeless man comes tantalizingly close to his old life and happiness only to question that joy.

In this novel, Wright (The Sky Is Far Away, 2018, etc.) gives readers a homeless, nameless man trying to survive after the mother of all housing bubbles has burst. He is somewhere in Florida, breaking into foreclosed houses in search of food. He has bottomed out: He’s lost his job and his family and even spent a year in prison. He has also lost all hope and wants only to be left alone. Then he comes upon a little girl—as hungry and thirsty as he is—in an abandoned house. Try as he might, he cannot bring himself to desert her. He finds an abandoned cabin and a job with a guy who is scrapping a nearby defunct amusement park, Fun-O-Rama (a wonderful metaphor). The girl, whose name readers finally learn is Jessie, is severely traumatized and mute. Ever so slowly, she begins to trust the man (her first words to him: “Are you Jesus?”). When she falls sick, he gets her to a hospital. She recovers, but now the police are very interested in his relationship with this kid and in his past. Many more things happen, but it is his need for Jessie that drives it all. The ending is artistically risky but truer than the conclusion readers will probably crave. Wright is a flat-out wonderful writer. The prose is crisp (“Unhappy should be a weather forecast like rain or snow”), the details spot-on, and the slow development meticulous. The nameless man—the first-person narrator—is an unforgettable character, always talking about the stories in life, like the “I Work Out and Exercise” and “Never Feed a Stray Animal” tales. He is in love with his bitterness but, try as he might, can’t excise his basic decency. This painful novel delivers heartbreak—but no sentimentality—and consummate thaumaturgy or, in the narrator’s words, “I’m both the magician and the trick.”

This tale of two survivors should move you, cajole you, upset you, and seduce you.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-389-06047-2

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Blurb

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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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