THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CAPTAIN N.

The Revolutionary War serves as a seldom-seen but solid foundation for Canadian-born Glover's (The South Will Rise at Noon, 1989, etc.) latest—a foray into some of the conflicting impulses and perspectives swirling through that formative period. Based in part on the actual experiences of Captain Hendrick Nellis, a Tory who fought against his American neighbors, the story emerges equally from Hendrick's exploits, the actions of his son, whom he kidnaps and forces to join his side, and from the strange adventures of a German girl who witnesses her family's slaughter by Indians and is almost killed herself, but who survives to become a feared medicine woman. Hendrick's son Oskar, a confused youth with a passion for writing, pens unsolicited secret reports to General Washington on elm bark even after taking up arms against the Americans. Adopting native ways himself as a leader of an Iroquois troop, his frenzy and lust are unabated in combat until he's shot by his cousin and suffers the loss of his closest friend to friendly fire. Meanwhile, Mary Hunsacker begins a new life among her captors, taking up with her assailant and living in the community until he dies on the warpath and she is abandoned for being too white in her grief. Hendrick's own mental state is extremely fragile; he suffers from increasingly severe migraines and depression as the war goes against the British, and in response slowly bleeds himself to the point of death. He brings Mary back to the white world, where she restores Oskar to health—but all of them continue to exist on the fine edge of madness, their lives utterly ruined by upheaval and loss. Darkly humorous, simultaneously restless and relentless in its patterning of voices and imagery, this is a close study of individuals trapped by a world in flux: a chaotic view of a new world order from the standpoint of the losers.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-41573-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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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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