Enjoyable (and a little predictable) summer fare.

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REVENGE OF THE KUDZU DEBUTANTES

Three Southern Belles wreak havoc in the lives of their cheating husbands in this light, likable debut.

Good manners and good breeding are one and all in small town Ithaca, Ga., making it hard for a lady to get a little breathing room. That’s what wild child Eadie Boone has been fighting for all her life. Eadie, who spent her childhood in a trailer park and now shares an antebellum mansion with husband Trevor Boone, is blindsided when he announces plans to marry his secretary. Trevor’s sanctimonious law partner Charles Broadwell, meanwhile, has no intention of leaving his little wife—he’s spent too long browbeating meek Nita (who is secretly addicted to the raunchiest of romance novels) to train someone new. And finally there is Lavonne; oblivious that husband Leonard (third partner in the prestigious Boone and Broadwell law firm) is hiding his assets to better swindle her when he gets around to filing for divorce. One night after the firm’s annual garden party, the three friends discover that their husbands’ yearly hunting trip to Montana has included the comfort of call girls. They decide on revenge, and so unfurls a complicated plan requiring female impersonators, the sale of house and goods and Ithaca’s best wives-only divorce attorney. For Eadie, this is a bittersweet scheme, because though Trevor has cheated on her (and she on him), the two are as perfect together as any couple could be. And while Lavonne could care less about leaving shlumpy old Leonard, it is proper Nita who surprises all by falling in love with Jimmy Lee Motes, a sexy young carpenter. Though the novel has its fair share of conventional devices (of our heroines, one is wild, one sensible, one shy) and uplifting female bonding, it also has some genuinely hilarious moments (particularly during the lawyers ill-fated hunting trip) and characters that would make good friends.

Enjoyable (and a little predictable) summer fare.

Pub Date: May 16, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-6367-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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