Insightful and illuminating.

READ REVIEW

THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK

STORIES

A dozen stories about the lives of Nigerians at home and in America from the winner of the Orange Broadband Prize.

In the five tales set in the United States, Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun, 2006, etc.) profiles characters both drawn to America and cautious of assimilation. “Imitation” centers on Nkem, who lives with her two Americanized children in a large house in the Philadelphia suburbs filled with reproductions of tribal masks (the originals are in British museums). Her husband visits from Nigeria for only a few months each year, and when she hears he has moved his girlfriend into their Lagos house, Nkem begins to consider the authenticity of her American life, wondering if it’s too late to go home. In “The Arrangers of Marriage,” a young woman arrives in New York with her brand-new husband, who seemed fine on paper but proves not to be quite what he claimed. Ofodile is not yet a doctor, just an intern; their “house” is a sparsely furnished apartment in Flatbush; and Dave, as he prefers to be called, has fairly stringent ideas of what it takes to be American, like no sugar in tea and no spicy smells polluting their hallway. The very fine “Jumping Monkey Hill” and the title story both show Nigerian women confronting white expectations. In the first, Ujunwa has won a stay at a writer’s retreat outside Cape Town. The organizer, a British Africanist, has his own ideas as to what constitutes authentic African writing—lesbians are out, revolution is in—and does not like her tale of feminist struggle in Lagos. “The Thing Around Your Neck” refers to loneliness, which nearly chokes a young immigrant woman working as a waitress in Connecticut, but even as she feels its grip loosening, she remains wary of her new American boyfriend, “because white people who like Africa too much and those who like Africa too little were the same—condescending.”

Insightful and illuminating.

Pub Date: June 26, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-27107-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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?

No Comments Yet
more