A surreal performance that’s worth a read, particularly as a reflection of a historically important time and place.

READ REVIEW

LAST NIGHT IN GRANADA

Pellizzari’s debut novella tells a young man’s story of idealism, passion, and loss, toggling between 2003 and 2012 as well as between Andalusia and America.

The story opens with a young man named Chris seeing an Illinois doctor to get a prescription for Ambien. He’s a wreck who can’t sleep and has panic attacks. But it wasn’t always this way. Nine years before, when he was a junior at the University of Illinois, he spent his spring semester in Granada, overwhelmed by the romance of it and his passion for the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca’s works—and for a young woman named Vera, a precocious sophomore in the same program. Now, in 2012, he takes three Ambien pills and tries to sleep, and the remainder of the novella takes place in a liminal space in which he confronts his dreams and his demons, his memories and his present dismal reality. Chris has been fired from his dead-end job and lives alone, fighting his anxieties and trying to make sense of his past and salvage some sort of future. However, what once promised to be everlasting love between the two young people is over; Vera is a now a matron with three kids and a cloddish husband in another Chicago suburb. Pellizzari shares Chris’ first name, he lives in Chicago, and he once attended the University of Illinois, as his character does. Whether the author actually went to Spain for an idyllic semester or fell in love with a woman named Vera isn’t stated in the novel; what is real, or at least fully realized in these pages, is the protagonist’s fervor over García Lorca, and the surreal, poetic way in which Pellizzari tells the story is very effective indeed. Ghosts almost overwhelm this tale—not just that of the Spanish poet, but of all those others who perished in the Spanish Civil War, famously captured by Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica. To call this novella elegiac is an understatement, and those who love García Lorca—who was assassinated in 1936 at the age of 38—will be moved by the love that Pellizzari shares here. Still, readers would do well to get up to speed on the Spanish Civil War, García Lorca’s life, and the concept of “El Duende” before reading this work. On another level, the story of Chris and Vera is a very old and wry one—a tale of the exotic and romantic versus the mundane and realistic. The passionate love in Granada, as depicted here, seems fated to end as it did in Illinois. Such love hurts, then it passes, and soon we’re middle-aged and wiser, as Chris learns—pining for a ghost that won’t come back again. Fortunately, Pellizzari has the good sense to tamp this emotion down somewhat in his prose, which is poetic but controlled—and all the more successful for its restraint.

A surreal performance that’s worth a read, particularly as a reflection of a historically important time and place.

Pub Date: June 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990584-8-0

Page Count: 108

Publisher: ReadLips Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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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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