Troubled romance that knows the messiness of real life.

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Ride Your Heart 'Til It Breaks

Hawkins’ (Dance for a Dead Princess, 2013) tale of addictive love is a roller coaster of emotion.

Jumping between the past and present, Hawkins spins the story of Karen Moon and her ill-advised love, Stan Benedict. Their relationship begins in 1994. Karen is a talented attorney who works all the time, though she hates her job at a top law firm in San Diego. Stan is a jazz musician who manages to catch Karen’s eye, distract her from work, and inadvertently win her heart. Stan repeatedly warns Karen he’s bad for her, a supposition his actions only support. Karen—who now, based on Stan’s recommendation, once again goes by Carrie Moon—is convinced her love can change him, and she doggedly pursues Stan in an attempt to prove he is worthy of love. Ultimately, their relationship ends in tragedy, and Stan leaves her in horrific fashion. More than a decade later, Carrie is now the Honorable Judge Karen Morgan. Though she’s married to a successful trial attorney and surrounded by tangible signs of their wealth and success, she is dreadfully unhappy. Her marriage resembles a corporate merger, her job fails to satisfy her, she still misses music, and she can’t seem to get over Stan. When Stan suddenly reappears in her life, Karen finds herself reliving their past and considering a future together. Hawkins presents a study of love’s all-consuming power, both good and bad. While it opens Carrie up to new possibilities, it often blinds her to the true nature of Stan’s personality. Hawkins does an admirable job painting Stan as a likable jerk. He’s the selfish liar, philanderer, and gambler you want to succeed. Alternately, Karen is beautiful, smart, driven, and incredibly understanding; the couple is such a stark contrast that it tests the bounds of believability to imagine them together. Hawkins’ intriguing descriptions of the emotion underlying Stan’s music provide a window into his troubled soul. Meanwhile, Karen’s own journey of self-discovery is equally if not more compelling. The transition from Carrie to Karen (and perhaps back again) is relatable and honest.

Troubled romance that knows the messiness of real life.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0988934733

Page Count: 415

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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