Rambling and unfocused: a nicely written debut tale that meanders slowly in no particular direction.

READ REVIEW

BY WAY OF WATER

An impoverished family tries to scrape by during hard times in the backwoods of northern California.

In 1977, the hinterlands of the West Coast are inhabited largely by the very poor and the very weird, and the Colby family fits both categories. Jake, an unemployed logger, is part-Indian, likes the occasional drink, plays the fiddle, and has a nasty temper that he keeps under control most of the time. His wife Dale is a devout Jehovah’s Witness and has raised their children (Lacee, Micah, and Justy) in the faith despite Jake’s agnosticism. The decline of logging in the Eel River woodlands—brought on in part because the mountain the Colbys live on has been bought by a mining company—has made it difficult for Jake to support his family. He takes odd jobs where he can, digging graves and so forth, and once in a while he will hunt deer for food. This causes problems, however, as the mining company has threatened to evict tenants caught poaching on their land. So Dale makes Jake vow never to hunt again. She has taken a vow herself, promising never to sing (she has a beautiful voice) except in her Kingdom Hall during meetings. And seven-year-old Justine has vowed never to speak again until her father finds work. Although the Colbys are pretty traditional by 1977 standards, there are also a good number of hippies in the area, mostly from Berkeley or the East. They circulate a petition against the mining company’s plans for development, fearing that they will pollute and ruin the local ecology. The Colbys don’t sign (Dale doesn’t believe in voting), but they become friends with Ochre, the son of one of the hippies. When Jake’s father Kyle comes for a visit, the two men find a long burden of tension between them.

Rambling and unfocused: a nicely written debut tale that meanders slowly in no particular direction.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-14898-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: BlueHen/Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2002

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.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • 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?

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

Did you like this book?

more