Though its reach may sometimes exceed its grasp, this collection is never less than daring and ambitious.




A volume of short stories explores dark spiritual territory, examining themes of destruction on both a personal and global scale. 

In the poignant and heartbreaking “Dreaming of Fish,” a man trying to come to terms with a terminal brain tumor makes one last journey to the mountains where he and his wife have found so much joy. “Mirror Mirror” is a bit more abstract, about a man working in a frame shop who becomes obsessed with a woman’s painting, eventually trying to lose himself in the work’s world. A few tales in, the scope of the stories begins to expand. “In Its Luster” follows a schoolboy as he falls in love with a classmate, an experience reflected in scenes around the world, from an Iraqi astrophysicist to a musician who tunes his guitar. “Nolo Contendere” shows a young man developing into a serial killer, waiting with a small arsenal to shock his small town. “Gathering Algorithms” and “Which Was Once” take the apocalypse quite literally. The former is the most eerie, portraying an increasingly digital world that causes trees to grow out of control and uproot, resulting in massive devastation. The latter, a blow-by-blow account of an Armageddon where fascism increases in reaction to disasters and human hypocrisy accelerates the planet’s doom, is all plot and no characterization. The final three are more personal, ending with the transmigration of the soul of a female boar into a newborn child. Frode’s (One Times One, 2016, etc.) wild imagination is on full display here as he tries to connect these intriguing stories with the ideas of artists and thinkers like Ramana Maharshi, T.S. Eliot, and Russell Hoban by presenting quotes from their works by way of introduction. In this bold assemblage, the author’s prose can be thick, as in “Scree” when he describes a character’s outpouring of secret thoughts: “The extreme cognitive myopia under which he is now struggling is causing him to utter words and thoughts that have always fallen mute between the integers and symbols of his formulae.”

Though its reach may sometimes exceed its grasp, this collection is never less than daring and ambitious.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-359-22139-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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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