A witty, modern voice delivers a captivating tale about a mysterious death that feels like a light read but soon submerges...


There's More Than One Way Home

A mother questions her relationships with family and friends after classmates accuse her autistic son of murdering a student.

Levin (California Street, 1992, etc.) produces a partnership between doubt and guilt in the story of Anna Kagen and her son, a fourth-grader who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. When the novel opens, Anna is accompanying her son’s class on a field trip to Minotaur Island, a preserve nestled in the San Francisco Bay. Her son, Jack, entertains his classmates with his many Aspy party tricks, like calculating days of the week on which friends’ birthdays will fall in the distant future. All is going well until Anna decides to let Jack visit the bathroom on his own. Her misjudgment sets in motion a series of events that wreaks havoc on her family’s lives. After Jack fails to return from the bathroom, Anna realizes that not only her son, but also three other boys are missing. When the boys are located, one is dead. The other children blame Jack, claiming he pushed the student into a ditch in anger. Anna is sure her son couldn’t be the culprit, but the other parents disagree, and a modern-day witch hunt ensues. Complicating matters further, Jack’s father, Alex Kagen, is the district attorney for San Francisco, and this is an election year. Suddenly, his opponents are using his son’s predicament as a campaign tactic. Alex’s rankings begin slipping, and his already strained relationship with his wife starts to crumble to bits. As Anna scrambles to clear her son’s name and questions whether she wants to save her marriage, the author provides intriguing and gut-wrenching information about hostilities toward children with disabilities. Through her fast-paced prose, engaging plot, and sharp insights, Levin  underscores how intolerance and ignorance can cause difficult situations to spiral out of control (When a teacher on the field trip finds out the boys are missing, she squawks: “I told the principal last fall that it was a mistake to keep that Kagen boy on!”). In a friendly, nearly conversational style reminiscent of Liane Moriarty, Levin covers everything from social-climbing PTA moms in contemporary suburbia to a complex love affair and corrupt practices in the nation’s penal system. 

A witty, modern voice delivers a captivating tale about a mysterious death that feels like a light read but soon submerges the reader deep into the throes of substance.  

Pub Date: May 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9913274-6-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 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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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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