Look for a film version soon, but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of reading the book. Kit’s Law is a charmer.

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KIT’S LAW

This appealing first novel, set in coastal Newfoundland and certain to be compared to E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, was published to widespread acclaim in its author’s native Canada in 1999.

The story is set in the “outport” of Fox’s Cove, near Haire’s Hollow, and focuses on the close familial relationship that binds together its fatherless narrator, adolescent Kit, her mentally retarded (and “wild”) mother Josie, and feisty Lizzy, Kit’s grandmother, who keeps the fragile family together, fending off the loudly proclaimed disapproval of most of the Pitmans’ neighbors. When Lizzy dies unexpectedly, a delegation led by haughty Mrs. Ropson, wife of the fire-breathing local minister, tries to have mother and daughter committed to an asylum and an orphanage, respectively. Kit is a heroine whom we immediately warm to (her phlegmatic housecat Pirate is an almost equally companionable character)—and Morrissey severely tests her character’s wits and survival skills as pressure mounts from “respectable” souls; minister’s son Sid befriends the Pitmans (and captures Kit’s unruly heart); a murder stuns the community; and the identity of Kit’s father—one of the many villagers who’d had their way with the impulsive Josie, his identity hitherto known only to kindly Doc Hodgins—may at last be revealed. It all sounds corny, but it isn’t—despite many unmistakable echoes of other books, including Wuthering Heights (oddly), New Zealander Keri Hulme’s Booker-winner, The Bone People, To Kill a Mockingbird, and any number of Dickens novels (the creepy rapist and killer known as Shine, in fact, bears more than a passing resemblance to Oliver Twist’s gloriously depraved Bill Sykes). No matter: Morrissey’s warmth and genuinely respectful affection for her characters, Kit’s flinty, vigorous voice, and dialogue so salty it could pit aluminum are more than compensatory virtues.

Look for a film version soon, but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of reading the book. Kit’s Law is a charmer.

Pub Date: May 3, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-10927-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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