Tapestry: Strands of Yellow and Blue

BOOK I

This debut medieval romance sees a traumatized teen regain her passion for life, with the help of a man haunted by his own tragic past.
In 1122, in the kingdom of Blinth, a young teen runs in panic through the woods before finally collapsing. She awakens next to a stag that tells her that the men following her are friendly and that she should go with them in order to heal the cuts on her feet. Tristam, the leader of the hunting party, carries her to King Stefan’s castle. However, once her fever breaks, she finds herself unable to speak or remember anything about her past. Tristam names her Grace and takes a personal interest in her recovery. He’s still healing as well, after losing his wife and daughter in the woods years ago, and he grows closer to the foreign girl at the risk of his own reputation. Eventually, Grace starts communicating through sign language, going to school, and enjoying close friendships inside and outside the castle. But both she and Tristam sense a tragedy in her past that she’s blocked out completely. Will their deepening bond help or hinder her full recovery? Arnold sets her incredibly layered narrative in a Christian kingdom while offering mystery, romance and a parable on the power of healing. The chapters alternate between Tristam’s and Grace’s first-person accounts, and the author emphasizes the sense of touch throughout, characterized by tender dignity: “I go to him,” says Grace, “and wrap him in my arms as best I can. I stroke his hair. I kiss his brow.” However, this is also a story about healing from sexual abuse, and Arnold handles the traumatic subject with exceptional realism, particularly when she depicts Grace’s oscillation between isolation and acceptance. Splendid secondary characters, such as Becca and Geneva, keep the tale from becoming too dour. Grace’s headmaster provides moments of wisdom, as when she tells Grace in a moment of doubt, “[M]any times those who are different are indeed our brightest.” Plenty of court intrigue and a stunning twist at the end could bring readers back for a sequel.
A glowing, potent fantasy tale for teens and adults.

Pub Date: July 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-936447-06-0

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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