A novel to be savored more than once, written with the same languorous, rumbling passion of Paul Newman and Joanne...

READ REVIEW

FINN

Looking behind propriety’s lace-curtain gentility into the hardwoods of sin, Brookhouse (Loving Ryan, 2010, etc.) offers pure Southern noir. 

It’s 1960, and Francis Finnegan Butler is approaching 30 when Belle, widow of Judge Timon Spier, dies. Called Judge since he "was too big for his britches because he had money and power and didn’t have to sully himself with practicing law," Judge raised Finn after the 14-year-old boy was abandoned by his mother, even sending him to a prestigious local school, the Academy. Now Finn teaches there, and he's voted to admit the school's first black student. That upsets Delia, the oldest Spier sister, but it doesn’t matter to Annabel, next youngest, nor Caroline. Brookhouse writes memorable characters: cleareyed Finn, of course, and Annabel, who seduced him at 15 and still lures him to bed; Henry Broken-ground, an Indian full of secrets; Erskine, jaded yet progressive newspaper editor; Danielle, his reporter, who loves Finn enough to wait out his fascination with Annabel; Buck, a hick Bull Connor, who inherited his daddy’s sheriff’s office; and Lester and Tracy, lawyers who unlock the mysteries of Schilling Club and a fur coat flaunted by a cross-dressing pastor. The plot follows the impending school integration, with Finn’s house burned and threats rumbling, but like mist in the pines, the mysteries binding Finn and the Spiers together hover over the tale. Delia bars Finn from Red Sticks, the family mansion, but Finn can't rest until he understands why his mother abandoned him and why the Judge gave him a home. A layered work, mottled and shifting like visions through antique glass, shadowed by ever lurking violence, as if written by a Southern-born Jim Harrison.

A novel to be savored more than once, written with the same languorous, rumbling passion of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s film The Long Hot Summer.

Pub Date: March 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9798226-5-0

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Safe Harbor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more