A clever and kinky theatrical romp with a big heart.

MIDSUMMER'S BOTTOM

In this fantasy novel, a disastrous theater troupe specializes in Shakespeare.

In Limerick, Ireland, the Midsummer Players have been presenting Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream for 19 years. Director Terence Devlin hopes that the upcoming 20th anniversary performance will be the one that garners the hardworking, though unevenly talented, company some renown. The Players, however, don’t realize that every fey character mentioned in the famous work is obligated to attend, thanks to a devious bargain with Shakespeare himself. And among the countless productions the fey King Oberon and Queen Titania have witnessed, Devlin’s is one of the worst. Enter the real fairy Puck, who’s come via portal to the mortal world to find a mischief-maker who can infiltrate the Players and halt the show. Del Chapman, who’s just unleashed a computer virus on his employer and made his getaway in a stolen BMW, is stunned when Puck appears in the passenger seat. After causing a car crash to prove his powers, Puck explains to Del that the fairy can’t directly interfere with the Players. Despite misgivings about his acting abilities, Del agrees to ingratiate himself with the troupe and derail the performance. Of course, this chaos agent doesn’t anticipate the long-brewing complications among the actors. In this ribald fantasy, Dash (An Other Place, 2016, etc.) gifts fans of the Bard a nuanced comedy that comments heavily on the travails of monogamy. Almost all of the Players are dysfunctional couples, including Devlin and his middle-aged wife, Anna; Felix Hill and Nuala Shay; and Don Magill and Ingmar Van Dorslaer. Rising star—and Devlin’s secret lover—Kate Pummel and shy banker Diarmid Garrigan are wild cards with whom Del and Puck cause mayhem. The author spices events further by sending Diarmid to the fey realm, where nudity is unremarkable. He laments to Titania and Oberon: “In the human sphere, bodies have different meanings. There is sex in that land, and one is always aware of it.” A duality emerges in the novel, speaking both to the benefits of unfettered sex and the frustration at mortals’ preoccupation with the act.

A clever and kinky theatrical romp with a big heart.

Pub Date: June 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71720-021-1

Page Count: 458

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 34

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • 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