A lyrical Southern tale of rippling effects.

READ REVIEW

FRIDAY CALLS

A SOUTHERN NOVEL

A debut literary novel tells the interlocking stories of the denizens of a North Carolina town.

In the South in the 1950s, there aren’t any bars. The rich drink at their clubs or one another’s homes. The poor sip at drink houses. Harry Davis runs a beverage distributor in Winston-Salem, though he also oversees an illegal sports-betting operation with his friend Syd Siddon. One of Harry’s employees, Evelina Starlight “Big Rise” Peak—so called because she is the largest woman anyone has ever seen—is a former prostitute and Social Security check thief. Her younger brother, the simple but sensitive Homer Kenny, works for everybody: “Kenny is the fellow who is there if anyone needs anything—The Master of the Job, the Errand, the Task. He works for many people, does many things, knows more than they think he does and keeps his mouth shut.” Benjamin Franklin “Bo” Winphrie runs a drink house, sells drugs, and thinks enough of himself to adopt the first name of rock star Bo Diddley. After a fight about money, Kenny shoots Bo in the drink house; meanwhile, across town, one of Harry’s well-to-do clients accidentally drives his car onto the railroad tracks and is hit by a train. These two events send shock waves throughout the town, destabilizing the usual way of things in Winston-Salem and bringing its communities—rich and poor, black and white—into unexpected collisions. Glenn’s prose is full of color and motion, as here, during Bo’s murder: “The form of Bo stops moving and yanks like being startled, jerking to the right, a pulling back away like un-huh, no, no you don’t, and then Bo’s chin comes up and down like a fast nod and then he cat-dances back to the bar counter and slumps a little bit, but stays more due north than not.” The book’s cast is large, and the narrative hops between characters every few pages, though readers will eventually get to know everyone and can mostly keep track of them. At nearly 300 pages, it’s a long, dense, and meandering tale, but there is plenty about the author’s sprawling yarn to keep readers entertained.

A lyrical Southern tale of rippling effects.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5136-3623-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more