Peter Blake is an architect who cares about the environment, and as a vegetarian who emphasizes sustainability in his...




Ashley’s debut novel tells the story of an idealist’s journey from criminal suspect to accepted messiah.

Peter Blake is an architect who cares about the environment, and as a vegetarian who emphasizes sustainability in his designs, he practices and preaches his beliefs. For his latest project, for example, he gives “instructive lectures to the workers about…the sustainable features he incorporated in the building.” One day, Peter finds himself mistakenly entangled in a double homicide on the construction site, and he becomes a wanted man. Forced to flee to a cabin in North Carolina, he hides while his trusted and lovely lawyer, Sofie, attempts to sort things out. Fortunately for Peter, his cabin is designed with the same environmental fastidiousness as his bigger projects: “Why pay for heat when the sun supplies far more than he ever needed, even in winter?” he reflects. Meanwhile, a fierce gentleman named Boris is attempting to track Peter down; he’s as skilled at investigation as Peter is at architecture, and he seems sure to get his man. Then the unexpected happens: After Peter leaves his woodsy hideaway, he emerges in a nearby church, where the churchgoers believe him to be the second coming of Christ. Seeing a rare opportunity for redemption, as well as a platform to preach his own sort of gospel, Peter becomes “The Man They Call Jesus.” He offers his seven principles to the world (the Fifth Principle, for example, is “Democracy, not Tyranny”). Peter must figure out how to survive in environments that are either accepting or hostile toward his message. The novel is slowed down at times by unenlightening details, such as when Sofie notes that a building’s “design uses as many plants as possible because plants absorb carbon dioxide and also give off life-supporting oxygen.” That said, the story does manage moments of great excitement: Will Peter really manage to convince people his message is worthwhile, and also avoid the aggressive Boris? Although some of Peter’s seven principles may strike some readers as obvious (“Almost no country on earth has all the natural resources it needs”), those intrigued by a TED-talking messiah will be eager to find out his fate.

Pub Date: July 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496102621

Page Count: 548

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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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