And yet: neurotically charming and funny, the adopted single dad still wins our sympathy.

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THE MARTIAN CHILD

A NOVEL ABOUT A SINGLE FATHER ADOPTING A SON: BASED ON A TRUE STORY

The prolific science-fiction and YA author takes a respite from Dingillian family strife (Bouncing Off the Moon, 2001) with a hasty, jokey, and very personal account of a middle-aged gay man’s adoption of a high-risk eight-year-old boy.

Chatty and given to cornball humor and fits of sudden weeping, Northridge, California, resident Gerrold recounts his attempts to adopt a child alone—from feeling unnerved that he himself is regarded as second-rate as a potential parent to the daunting afflictions—hyperactivity, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome—that most of the “special-needs” children come saddled with. Dennis is the boy David chooses, mostly because he’s the only white child available and the county doesn’t promote cross-racial matchups, but also because Gerrold has a “feeling.” Although the boy is deemed unable to form a lasting attachment (read: is unadoptable), Gerrold wants him and proceeds to examine minutely why he shouldn’t have him, which the reader never stops wondering either. Is it selfish vanity on Gerrold’s part, or is it just that no one else wants the child and Gerrold won’t let him down? Once united, the two get along swimmingly, and the story becomes a happy snapshot of David’s enchantment with their routine together—until Dennis reasserts the notion that he’s been planted by Martians, leaving Gerrold to wonder whether it could be true and how he ought to investigate. An earthquake and the death of the family dog unsettle Dennis and provoke him to act out, testing his new daddy’s limits and patience. Throughout, meanwhile, The Martian Child reads like a fast-written magazine article with lots of quotes and one-sentence paragraphs, and the fact that Gerrold is a writer constructing a narrative is reaffirmed constantly, with the result that the reader can’t shed the uncomfortable notion that Dennis is being manipulated as fodder for a good story.

And yet: neurotically charming and funny, the adopted single dad still wins our sympathy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-765-30311-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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