An enjoyable memoir that will likely give readers goose bumps.

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VOODOO DAYS AT LA CASA FABULOSA

AN UNCONVENTIONAL MEMOIR

A collection of real-life spooky tales of an old Kentucky neighborhood.

You know that a collection of paranormal tales is doing its job when you become just the tiniest bit reluctant to read it after dark. Technically, food writer Dominé’s (True Ghost Stories and Eerie Legends from America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood, 2014, etc.) memoir is more ghost-suggestive than ghost-specific—that is, no actual apparitions appear. Still, it may send tingles up readers’ spines. La Casa Fabulosa is the name that Dominé gave to a six-bedroom, three-story Victorian fixer-upper; he and his boyfriend moved into it in 1999. Located in a slowly gentrifying area of Louisville, his new home offered all sorts of fanciful period touches, including intertwining pillars and dragonlike gargoyles. It also had pictures that spontaneously fell from the walls and unexplained sounds of footsteps or an occasional moan. Dominé mostly opts for a rational view of the spooky goings-on—an old house settling or an electrical mishap caused by ancient wiring. But he still investigated the phenomena in ways that may seem foolhardy to readers who don’t like wandering alone in big, old houses. Soon, he was exploring the other oddities that abounded in his colorful neighborhood. The author eventually discovered the legend of the Witches’ Tree and met transient Romani people, drug addicts, cross-dressers, sewer-dwelling hoboes, a mysterious character called the Stick Witch, and an elusive voodoo queen. Dominé knows how to string readers along; he typically starts with something heard happening somewhere else: “One night, a strange metallic clanging and rattling woke me from a deep sleep around half past three. Ghosts?” The book’s biggest flaw, though, is that he doesn’t know when to stop. After the umpteenth event, readers may think that Dominé should have simply assumed that something “unexplained” was actually something mundane. Still, the author does so much so well that most readers won’t mind. Consider how much information (and tone) he packs into just one sentence: “I had read about documented cases of weirdness where strange things, including coal, frogs and strips of meat—such as during the famous ‘Kentucky Meat Shower’ of March 3, 1876—had fallen from the sky, and I now wondered if Widmer House was spitting things at me to get my attention.”

An enjoyable memoir that will likely give readers goose bumps.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-73466-7

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Myrtle & LaMere

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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