Deeply original in style, if not in substance.



A refreshingly unsentimental debut about three generations of women in a tiny Nova Scotia town.

Romantic immigrant Effie marries into the mercantile class. Ruby, her steely-edged elder daughter, weds a philandering businessman. As the narrative begins, Lindy, Effie’s granddaughter and Ruby’s niece, is a hapless spinster disguised as a woman, but she proves to be the story’s real heroine. The women’s voices alternate throughout, forming a surprisingly cohesive, if slightly predictable, tale of thwarted hopes, failed romances, and untimely deaths. Structured almost as a trio of linked stories, the novel’s conceit is at times alluring and involving, at times annoying. Just as we engage with one woman’s saga, short-story writer Bruneau (Depth Rapture, 1998, not reviewed) interjects another, creating a series of mini-cliffhangers that more than anything instill the desire to skip ahead. Wisely, she begins her tale at the end, with 60ish Lindy running the family business—once a general store, now more of convenience mart—and caring for 89-year-old Ruby, who appears to have Alzheimer’s. A wonderfully drawn character, Lindy is simultaneously saucy and meek, at odds with her own desires (to look pretty and perhaps attract a man) and frustrations (caring for Ruby, running the unprofitable shop, and fending off the evil teenagers who mock her). As the story progresses, she embarks on an uncertain romance with Wilf Jewkes, a trailer-dwelling construction foreman. Meanwhile, Ruby obsesses increasingly on the past, mentally dissecting her unhappy marriage and reading Effie’s diary, written in the form of a letter to her dead sister, which makes up the third narrative. The diary reveals Effie’s life as rather less utopian than Ruby imagined, a discovery that thrusts her into full-on dementia—seen, rather brilliantly, from Ruby’s point of view, as well as Lindy’s.

Deeply original in style, if not in substance.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7867-0860-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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