A time-travel treat with a captivating hero.

A BOOMER'S TALE

A novel focuses on the adventures of an attorney facing a midlife crisis.

Nyznyk’s (The First Gospel, 2017, etc.) protagonist, Jack Darrow, a 50-something lawyer, is mired in ennui: “Maybe by fifty, the real world has so overwhelmed a man that dreams disappear and hopes for adventure, romance, and excitement fade into the mundane reality of everyday life.” Not even the love of his beautiful wife, Julia, and his family is enough to bring Jack out of his funk. So, in a self-indulgent effort to find himself, he goes on a camping trip with old friend Paul Dickson. Unfortunately, the pair soon runs afoul of a trio of brothers straight out of Deliverance. Running for their lives, Jack and Paul hide in a cave only to have it collapse on them and their pursuers. When Jack awakes in the long-ago land of Estandor, he rescues an attractive woman being pursued by a dark knight. The wounded Jack, now back in his college-age body, is taken in by rebels opposed to the rule of the ruthless Cormac Canhagin, which is enforced by his Black Guard. Figuring that he’s stuck in the past, the protagonist throws in with the rebels seeking to overthrow Cormac, even after Jack gets captured. Meanwhile, in the present, Julia and family adjust to life without Jack. Nyznyk has crafted an effective cautionary tale. Characterization is strong in this enjoyable spin on Outlander in which Jack falls for the beautiful Kara but can’t forget his life with Julia. Likewise, Julia can’t move on from soul mate Jack. Cormac is a venal, entitled nobleman who has crushed the humanity out of his head knight, Silver Glen, known as The Dread to his leader’s downtrodden subjects. The best parts of the smooth-flowing narrative are the Estandor scenes and backstory, which take on the flavor of an Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp novel as man-out-of-his-time Jack rallies the rebels. The modern-day scenes, too many of which center on whether the neighborhood lecher will successfully seduce Julia, aren’t nearly as engrossing. But the tale works because readers will become invested in hoping that the new, improved Jack gets his happy ending.

A time-travel treat with a captivating hero.

Pub Date: April 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73358-560-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Cross Dove Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2019

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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

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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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