The premises are not believable and the exposition, tedious and overblown. A disappointment.

READ REVIEW

THE FAMILY TABOR

The Palm Springs Man of the Decade suddenly remembers that his gains are ill-gotten and his life built on lies.

"Late in the second decade of the twenty-first century," Harry Tabor is the king of his world, about to be honored for his philanthropy at a fabulous ceremony that's bringing his three adult children back to town to celebrate with him. Unfortunately, a nasty series of recovered memories begins to hit him during a tennis match the day before the ceremony. First, he remembers something he hadn't thought about since 1987—that he left behind a pair of dachshunds named King David and Queen Esther when his family moved from Connecticut to California. He abandoned his dogs? No one can mistake this for anything but the sign of a rotten soul and dark revelations to come. Next (still at the tennis court, by the way), he sees a white-robed cantor. "Who is he to Harry? Why is he seeing him? Or why is he being shown him? The face, it seems familiar, a face he has seen before. But where? He hears daguerreotype; registers that it, too, is reverberating only in his head, spoken in a voice dry and unfamiliar to him." The series-of-questions technique of development is used frequently in Wolas' (The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, 2017) second novel, another big book coming surprisingly close on the heels of her very successful, rather long debut. While that mysterious inner voice is guiding Harry through the process of recalling his sins, his children show up with troubles of their own, though nobody is honest with each other in this supposedly loving family. One has a stalled academic career and a secret job at a hospice; another has an imaginary boyfriend; the third has a non-Jewish wife who is leaving him because he tentatively expressed interest in exploring his faith. Strangely, all the buildup in the first four-fifths of the novel simply fizzles out in the last section. The ponderous writing is the last nail in the coffin. "Her mother was a prominent child psychologist and often said to her children, 'You can do anything you want if you have thought it through and are capable of articulating your reasoning. In other words, so long as you can show your work.' " Would anyone ever say that clunky line once, much less often? Sigh.

The premises are not believable and the exposition, tedious and overblown. A disappointment.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-08146-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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?

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more