Given the high-concept premise, Parkhurst (The Dogs of Babel, 2003) has avoided the pitfall of simply engineering a joyride,...

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LOST AND FOUND

Twelve contestants on a round-the-world scavenger hunt compete for reality-TV fame and a million-dollar jackpot.

The latest reality-TV show to go into production, Lost and Found is down to its last six pairs of contestants. Cameramen and sound crew trail each duo as they careen through international airports lugging a parrot in a cage, an aviator helmet and a ski pole, en route to clues that will lead them to other equally hard-to-travel-with objects. What with jet lag, drastic time-zone changes and the grueling challenges of the intermittent daredevil rounds (milking rattlesnakes, being buried to the neck in hot sand), relations between team members are frayed: 18-year-old Cassie and her newly slimmed-down, long-widowed mother Laura are NOT TALKING about the baby Laura carried unnoticed to term and gave up for adoption; Juliet and Dallas, former child stars, find the spotlight isn’t big enough for both of them; Carl and Jeff, brothers both recently divorced, disagree as to whether their lifelong joke-meister routines are appreciated by the others; Betsy and Jason, former high-school sweethearts reunited for the trip, learn that they’ve long outgrown each other; Trent and Riley, techno-whizzes who caught the dot.com wave and bailed in advance of the crash, are having trouble with the mundane; and Justin and Abby, both “ex-gays,” now born-again Christians, discover that their marriage to each other hasn’t put a stop to “sinful desire.” As the teams decode rhymed clues that send them from a Cairo nightclub to a Shinto palace in Japan, and further on around the globe, the show’s producers manipulate contestants’ exhaustion to orchestrate juicy confrontations for the cameras. Told from different characters’ points of view, this novel manages, despite its madcap premise and full-frontal exposure of crass American greed, to deliver several sympathetic characters.

Given the high-concept premise, Parkhurst (The Dogs of Babel, 2003) has avoided the pitfall of simply engineering a joyride, and written a funny second novel that surpasses her first.

Pub Date: June 13, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-15638-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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