This book is as all of Vann’s fiction: provocative and unforgiving.



Vann’s third novel is his most visceral yet: a grinding examination of killing, God and the unnamable forces that create a dynasty of violence.

An 11-year-old boy, his father, grandfather, and his father’s best friend, Tom, make the trip to Goat Mountain, a vast family ranch, for their annual deer hunt. When they arrive, in the distance they see an orange-vested hunter sitting on a rock, a poacher on their land. The father spies on the stranger through the scope of his gun. He calls his son over to have a look. When the boy sights the poacher through the cross hairs, he pulls the trigger and shoots. The man is obviously dead—a giant hole through him—and now nothing will be the same. The boy, now a man, narrates this story in a staccato of images, as if remembrance is impossible when accessing the mind of a child, and says “[s]ome part of me was not right, and the source of that can never be discovered.” The men call him a monster, but what can be done? The father throws the body into the back of the pickup, drives to their campsite and strings the man up as they do deer, year after year. The boy is so remorseless, he seems an innocent, and the grandfather wants him murdered (even tries to kill him one night). Tom wants to head back and tell the police, but the father doesn’t know what to do, and so, in his moral inertia, he continues the hunting trip, making meals, flushing out game, sleeping at night, all as the dead man hangs and festers. The narrator meditates on the Bible and its glorification of violence, of our inescapable murderous legacy, and that “[t]he act of killing might even be the act that creates god.” Nothing that begins so badly can end well, yet there is also something comforting in the inevitable; when a gun is loaded, the bullet yearns for a home.

This book is as all of Vann’s fiction: provocative and unforgiving.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-212109-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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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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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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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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