A sentimental but moving family saga.

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Protecting Paige

A young girl lives with her uncle after the tragic loss of her parents and helps him to seek love again.

This novel tells the heart-rending story of Paige Noble, a young girl who is the only survivor when her parents and brother are murdered by a Chicago gang. Now orphaned, Paige’s legal guardian is her closest surviving relative, dashing photographer Maxwell Noble. Though Maxwell, a womanizing celebrity artist who was estranged from Paige’s parents, seems like an unlikely candidate to adopt the girl, he promises to take care of her and raise her as his own. Joining this duo is Gladys Barker, mother of one of the gang members who committed the crime. Gladys, desperate to make amends, stays by Paige’s side while she is in the hospital and is overjoyed when the girl remembers that Gladys’ son Darren actually saved her from the other gang members. Paige and Gladys move into Maxwell’s large Chicago apartment, and the trio forms an unlikely makeshift family. The love they develop sustains them as Paige grows older and begins to investigate some questions about her family’s past. For example, who hurt Maxwell so badly that he is unable to commit to any woman? Who took the mysterious photos of her mother that Paige finds in an old trunk? And why did her mother insist that Paige never practice Judaism, the religion of her ancestors? The answers plunge Paige and Maxwell into the past but, ultimately, propel them into a new future together. Eisenberg (Pictures of the Past, 2011) tells a compelling story here. The author chronicles Paige’s evolution, detailing her initial fears that she would somehow lose her uncle (“When he went out in the evening, she would sit on her bedroom window seat, awaiting his return like a worried mother looking for her teenage daughter after a date”). The plot, however, turns predictable; readers will most likely guess how Paige and Maxwell will affect each other’s lives and how their search for love will end before the tale’s conclusion. And some of the writing is overly flowery, with too many lines like “Everything that happened just led me down a road and a turn in the road and a detour in the road, until the road led me to…you.” But overall, the novel remains engaging, if a little syrupy, in its unfolding.

A sentimental but moving family saga.

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-52875-4

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Studio House Literary

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2016

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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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