A fast-paced but emotionally resonant story about the bonds that hold fast when we’re far from home.

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EXILES

A man and his adolescent daughter indulge their status as refugees from American society by fleeing to remote Kathmandu.

It’s not exactly high adventure, but Groner shines a unique light on a remote, exotic land in his self-confident and culturally rigorous debut novel. His tale of a doctor and his beloved daughter takes a modern-day bent on Seven Years in Tibet and shows the country’s turmoil with a palette that is as affectionate as it is startling. The story finds Peter Scanlon, an American cardiologist and long-suffering divorcee, dropping into far-flung Kathmandu Valley with his teenaged daughter Alex in tow. Their back story is a bit convoluted—Peter’s ex-wife is an addict, and Alex has taken on a protective role around her long-suffering father. Peter is in-country to take a year as a physician at a local teaching hospital, but his gig disappears. Instead, he takes on a role at a small local clinic treating the most ravaged of the country’s impoverished citizens. Despite their self-imposed exile, the pair finds comrades. Peter befriends another physician and duels with Mina, a hot-tempered local nurse. Meanwhile, Alex finds an abiding friendship, and possibly more, with Devi, a local girl who vacillates between an interest in Buddhist teachings and a loose connection to the local rebels. Peter also butts heads with a local pimp, forcing him to buy a young girl in order to save her from human traffickers. These struggles accent the abiding love that Peter has for his daughter and his heartache at her emergence into adulthood. “She had started her slow walk away from him, and even in her presence he missed her,” Groner writes. “What he faced now was not her physical mortality but the first of the small, unavoidable deaths that lay before it.” With worse to come, even the most jaded reader will be on the edge of their seats as the author carries the story home.

A fast-paced but emotionally resonant story about the bonds that hold fast when we’re far from home.

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6978-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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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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