An informative read for anyone interested in the history of Cubans who moved to the U.S. before the mass emigration sparked...

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Marti and Anna: Out of Cuba

In the early 1900s, a Cuban mother and daughter immigrate to New York and overcome adversity.

In this debut novel, Colado draws on the experiences of her family to present the story of Anna and Marti. Impregnated by her sister’s boyfriend in Cuba, Anna gives birth to Marti at the age of 14, puts her in the care of others, and claims she’s the baby’s aunt. Later, Anna moves to New York, where she struggles at first but becomes established and lives with an Italian immigrant named Jimmy. She brings 13-year-old Marti up from Cuba, taking her out of a Roman Catholic boarding school. In New York, Marti confronts her mother about referring to her as her niece, but Anna and Jimmy continue to describe her that way to others, saying Marti’s mother died in childbirth. When Marti grows up, she marries a Cuban immigrant named Alfredo, who works in the garment industry but suffers from a serious heart condition. Enduring racism and anti-Hispanic sentiment, the couple have three children, buy a farm in upstate New York, and prosper. Years later, after Alfredo’s heart condition kills him, Marti carries on, selling the farm, building a rental apartment in her new house to bring in income, and learning to drive “in spite of the perpetual sound of honking that came from the cars driving behind her.” This is an uneven tale. Although Colado delivers superb portraits of a few characters, especially the wisecracking, easygoing Alfredo, she crams too many people and centuries of Cuban history into this short novel. A couple of relatives in the military, for instance, have little to do with the main narrative. Even Marti’s mother, Anna, isn’t well-drawn, and the emotional distance between the two women isn’t fully explored or resolved. Abrupt transitions can make the reading choppy. Still, Colado spins a heartfelt story of grit and perseverance, and the tale features several poignant moments, including Alfredo’s death. In addition, the author’s descriptive powers can be strong: a dying chicken flaps “like newspaper during a storm,” and the young Anna is “a caterpillar who could not return to its chrysalis.” The book, which will likely appeal primarily to the author’s relatives, includes strange-looking snapshots that appear to have been Photoshopped.

An informative read for anyone interested in the history of Cubans who moved to the U.S. before the mass emigration sparked by Castro’s revolution.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9967402-0-3

Page Count: 174

Publisher: R.E. Phillips

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

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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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