While occasionally overwrought, this is a perceptive, skillfully told story about a profoundly painful subject.



A married couple must make an agonizing decision about their critically ill young son.

Dylan Adams, an almost 3-year-old English boy, is in pediatric intensive care when we meet him, having endured several rounds of chemotherapy as well as surgery to remove a brain tumor. His devoted parents—Max, an American business analyst, and Pip, a British flight attendant (the family lives near Birmingham, England)—want nothing more than to bring their boy home. Eventually, though, Dylan’s doctor, Leila Khalili, presents them with an excruciating choice. Pip favors one option; Max, another. This is grim material, and in other hands, the story easily could have turned mawkish. But Mackintosh, a British author of mystery-thrillers (Let Me Lie, 2018, etc.), gets a lot of things right. She’s a natural writer, and her powers of observation are keen: “It takes practice, speaking to a sedated child,” she writes, then goes on to explain why. Everything, at least in the first half of the novel, feels true. (In an afterword, the author reveals that she and her husband were once compelled to make a similar decision.) The book is also briskly plotted, an unlikely page-turner. The story is told in the alternating voices of Pip and Max; there’s also a third perspective—that of Leila, the sympathetic doctor, whose narrative provides some relief from the intensity of the other two accounts. The book falters in the overlong second half. The author imagines dual outcomes to her story, which seems gimmicky—things get complicated (and sometimes confusing) as well as repetitive. Plus, Max’s downward trajectory doesn’t seem entirely credible; neither do some of his personal choices. But the ending, if not exactly happy, is authentically hopeful.

While occasionally overwrought, this is a perceptive, skillfully told story about a profoundly painful subject.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49056-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

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


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?



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?