Meandering, wildly idiosyncratic, and fanciful tales.



This ambitious collection of short stories strives to creatively imagine all manner of worlds beyond the physical grasp of humanity.

The introduction to this volume states: “Many say the best stories always begin, ‘A man in Florida.’ ” The diverse tales found here are loosely organized into seven sections, all of which have equivocal connections to Palm Beach County, Florida. The first section, entitled “Historical Fiction,” contains two stories: “A What If Story—The Long Voyage of Richard III,” which considers the unfolding of events should the monarch have survived Bosworth Field and made an escape to America; and “Edward the Martyr: England’s First Boy-King,” which imagines the interrogation of Katherine Howard, a young servant, who tells the tale of the king’s murder. These are the strongest two tales in the collection, which involves a cunning unpicking and restitching of history on the writer’s part and thoroughly believable characters. Subsequent chapters address radically incongruous themes. Taking a Janus-faced view, the section entitled “The Time Before Time” looks back to an age “before the humans on the planet invented time,” prior to fast-forwarding to “A Look into the Future, Feudal America,” a group of stories in which “everything falls apart and the one proud nation becomes a collection of feudal states.” Thematic overload ensues when Breeden (Tales Under the Palms, 2012, etc.) devotes further sections to tales that evoke a descent into hell and others that describe aliens. The result is an ill-conceived hodgepodge of ideas and genres, developing into disappointing narratives that lean heavily on clichés—the descriptions of aliens as “cat-people” being a case in point: “They evolved from cats, and are called Homo-felines (cat man) and process [sic] many cat-like qualities. They have pointed ears and two long eyelashes growing out of their eyebrows that resemble the whiskers on a cat.” The author’s “apologia” at the beginning of each tale confirms the awkward nature of the collection: “Despite the warnings from my professors at FAU, I am embarking on a story of what if Richard III had survived Bosworth Field.” The projected scope of this book is admirable, yet it attempts too much. Sadly, the best stories don’t always begin “A man in Florida.”

Meandering, wildly idiosyncratic, and fanciful tales.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5397-4537-2

Page Count: 584

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2017

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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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