Kepnes, whose previous novels deftly dealt with obsessive love, changes gears here and injects into this "Beauty and the...

PROVIDENCE

The mysterious return of a kidnapped boy is more curse than blessing in this novel—which is equal parts love story, thriller, and horror tale.

In Nashua, New Hampshire, young teen Jon Bronson is the sort of boy who loves newspapers and hamsters and takes the long way to school to avoid bullies. He also loves fellow teen and popular budding artist Chloe Sayers, though he never admits as much. Kepnes (Hidden Bodies, 2016, etc.) nails the tentative feelings that develop between kids from different middle school social strata. When Jon vanishes one morning—it’s revealed early on that his kidnapper is local substitute teacher Roger Blair—the relative speed with which the town’s interest wanes is nearly as devastating as his disappearance, a narrative trick Kepnes pulls off seamlessly. Four years later, a more muscular Jon emerges from the local mall with no memory of his captivity and a new obsession with the work of H.P. Lovecraft, particularly the novel The Dunwich Horror, which features a man named Wilbur Whateley, with whom Jon begins to identify. Soon after Jon's return, strange things begin happening to the people around him, from getting nosebleeds to fainting and even having a fatal heart attack. Jon disappears again, voluntarily this time, fearing that, like Wilbur, he’s the monster whose mere presence causes sickness and death. Kepnes follows Jon, Chloe, and Charles "Eggs" DeBenedictus, a detective from Providence, Rhode Island, over the years as they live their separate but interconnected lives: Jon in Providence under two assumed names; Chloe in New York City as an artist who shot to fame with her initial paintings of Jon during his disappearance; and Eggs as he investigates a series of seemingly unlinked heart-attack deaths of young people. As the three come closer to one another and are repelled by either choice or circumstances, the question of sacrificing love for safety becomes painfully clear to everyone.

Kepnes, whose previous novels deftly dealt with obsessive love, changes gears here and injects into this "Beauty and the Beast"–like story a deeper allegory about how far we’ll go to protect the things we love the most.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-59143-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Lenny

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more