Historically inaccurate with prose that doesn’t sparkle.

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Bawss

A novel of slavery, drugs, conspiracy and revenge.

A planter in colonial Georgia decided to import slaves from Africa to work his plantation, and at the urging of one of those slaves, the planter then enslaved members of the Bawss tribe, whose descendants serve as the novel’s focus. In the 1950s, Jakob Bawss graduates from college, determined to make a name for himself despite the prejudice he faces as an African-American. When he loses his job in the auto industry, Stephanie, a former co-worker, shares a formula she has developed for a highly addictive drug. Jakob refines the formula, renames the drug “crack” and quickly dominates the Detroit drug trade. Through the next two decades, Jakob expands his crack empire and reconnects with Stephanie, who admits that she also shared the crack formula with Ronald Reagan, another former co-worker. Jakob learns that the spread of crack was a plot by Stephanie and Reagan to subdue the African-American population. Throughout the tale, the author makes a number of factual errors, both minor (Jakob moves into a “three-room condo” in 1959 Detroit, though the first residential condominium in the United States was built in Utah in 1960) and major: The book opens in 1620 Georgia, but England did not establish its colony there until the 1700s. Reagan is shown losing the 1976 presidential election, but Gerald Ford, not Reagan, was the national candidate. The writing itself is little better, with anachronistic dialogue (“I’m sorry you guys, but I just remember too vividly the extreme lengths we had to go through to get here from Africa. I’m not sure that we’re prepared or capable of getting a ship, let along driving [sic] one,” one slave says to another in the 1660s) and awkward prose (“He had an extremely athletic body, one that made him seem as if he were an athlete, although he was far from it”). In addition, scenes of rape and torture are described in gratuitous detail.

Historically inaccurate with prose that doesn’t sparkle.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 159

Publisher: SBR Publications

Review Posted Online: March 12, 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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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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