THE RYER AVENUE STORY

Uhnak's first novel since Victims (1985) begins when six Bronx kids, turning on an abusive neighborhood bully, Walter Stachiew, beat him, leave him for dead, allow one of their fathers to be executed for his murder—and then spend 40 years overachieving as the past waits to catch up with them. Even as each of the kids is making it big, they're all piling up new secrets. Take-charge Dante D'Angelo is able to marry into a wealthy, well-connected Italian family and serve two terms as a liberal New York senator only because Maryanne Radsinski, the whore who seduced him one night and pleaded pregnancy, is bought off by his uncles. Tomboy Megan Magee, conquering polio to become a hotshot psychiatrist and spokesperson for women's issues, has a notorious aunt and a manic-depressive husband—as well as a long-standing crush on Danny. Megan's cousin—epileptic, ethereally beautiful Eugene O'Brien- -rises through the ranks of the Church because of his questionable closeness to rich patrons, and his brother Charley, rediscovering his Jewish roots, has been smuggling arms to Israel together with Ben Herskel, who's reversed his determination to renounce his own Jewishness, emigrated to Israel, and become General Herskel, Israeli delegate to the UN. Even Willie Paycek, whose hated janitor father was electrocuted after being discovered standing over Stachiew with a coal shovel, has fought his way to the top, turning his agreement to marry Maryanne and take her off to Hollywood into the springboard for a successful filmmaking career. But Willie's never forgiven the other kids for not befriending him despite the dark secret they share, and he bides his time until he can turn Maryanne's gossip-columnist son against his old accomplices in a regrettably predictable finale. Murder, sex, religion, politics; FDR, WW II, death camps; generational strife, multiple betrayals, and all the uplift you'd expect from a successful miniseries. Irresistible kitsch.

Pub Date: March 22, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-08888-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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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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