Absent the dramatic character arcs or plot twists readers would expect from an American novel, this urban fairy tale...



Dubliner Vivian Lawlor doesn’t fit in anywhere. Will she ever find her place in this world?

Debut novelist Lally creates a portrait of loneliness through the whimsical and obsessive Viv, who meticulously and painstakingly plots her daily walks through the streets of Dublin. The Irishwoman lives in the cluttered home she inherited from her deceased great-aunt, with whom she had lived since her parents’ deaths. Auntie was a Grey Gardens–style hoarder with an impressive collection of oddball items. Quirkiness runs in the Lawlor family, and before their deaths, Viv’s parents managed to convince this daughter (they have another, also named Vivian) that she's a changeling from another world. Viv is now a woman searching for portals to the world where she belongs and desperately seeking a friend. Her interactions with the people she crosses paths with in her daily life—shopkeepers, taxi drivers, urban pedestrians—are so, so awkward, they are at once delightfully hilarious and painfully cringeworthy. But they will never lead to friendship, and so Viv posts a sign advertising for a pal. Not just any friend. This charmingly touched heroine is on the hunt for a friend named Penelope (no Pennies need apply). Viv, who insists on the abbreviated version of her name because she loves palindromes, wants to ask this new friend why Penelope does not rhyme with antelope. When Viv meets her Penelope, she’s met her match. Though not a grounding influence, Penelope’s friendship forces Viv to see her world from a new perspective.

Absent the dramatic character arcs or plot twists readers would expect from an American novel, this urban fairy tale delivers something that is both subtle and profound in its examination of the human soul. Magically delicious.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61219-597-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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