The sweet remembrances of a time gone by when life was a bit slower and Christmas was not so stressful.

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CHRISTMAS AT EAGLE POND

A brief, charming tale of one boy's Christmas.

The book takes place in 1940, before Christmas garnered such modern-day angst, and former poet laureate Hall (The Back Chamber, 2011, etc.) imagines a five-day holiday at his grandparents’ farm at Eagle Pond, N.H. Lush descriptions of his grandmother preparing home-cooked meals on a woodstove, listening to his grandfather recite poetry while milking cows in the frigid barn and making popcorn balls to hang on the church Christmas tree mingle with scenes of family and friends gathered to celebrate the holiday. Far from home and his ill mother, little Donnie thrives in the love and warmth that radiates from his extended family members as they share tales of their own youths or listen to the radio. Although a flush toilet and bathroom are installed next to the dining room, most use the five-hole outhouse when there's company. Hot-water bottles at the end of the bed are a must to drive away the deep cold. The church Christmas pageant is full of hymns, recitations and the reenactment of the birth of Jesus in the stable. These events connect Donnie to his mother and her memories of the same experiences. Christmas morning brings hand-knitted mittens, a scarf and a prized book of poetry. And yet, even in that simpler time, Donnie longs for even older days, when horses and sleighs ruled the snow-covered roads. The time flies by, and all too soon, Donnie must board the train back to his life in Connecticut. But will a Christmas storm make traveling to the train station impossible?

The sweet remembrances of a time gone by when life was a bit slower and Christmas was not so stressful.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-58148-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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