Halting and clunky; this is a story that stops rather than ends.

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THE CARD

A recycled Christmas card, which the protagonists annually update, tracks the trajectory of their friendship.

Jane and Diana are temperamentally ill-suited to one another. First paired as Boston College roomies in 1963, Diana is large, brash and sloppy, while Jane is a petite, demure neat freak. Diana yearns to emulate her father, a Florida newspaper magnate, while Jane’s ambitions are limited to marrying her Harvard med-student boyfriend, David. From the start, David and Jane’s marriage is in trouble: David’s snobbish parents don’t approve of her homespun New England ancestry, and his father cuts the couple off when Jane fails to produce a grandson (the couple have one daughter, Kate). Diana, meanwhile, moves to Paris, taking a job with a journal run by Maurice, an acquaintance of her father. Savagely beaten by the police while covering the May 1968 student uprisings, Diana spends months recovering, after which she has a string of lovers and adventures until her father’s heart attack necessitates her return to Florida to manage his newspapers. David narrowly escapes disinheritance when his parents perish in a car accident and becomes a suburban gynecologist. As David turns increasingly cold and judgmental, wife Jane returns to her former job with a textbook publisher. After surprising him in bed with an assistant, Jane files for divorce, eventually scoring a hefty settlement. Diana marries Maurice after his wife, Solange, dies, and begins to come to terms with her mother’s insanity and lifelong confinement to a mental institution and her father’s homosexuality. Jane, singed by office politics, starts her own business, and Diana loses Maurice to lung cancer. From 1967 to 1986 the friends exchange the same Christmas card, alternately adding a line—it’s a clever device left largely unexploited.

Halting and clunky; this is a story that stops rather than ends.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2005

ISBN: 1-59414-417-6

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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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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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

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