Slow at times, though the heartfelt glimpse of the afterlife and fears of judgment will strike a chord with many readers.

READ REVIEW

NOTES FROM THE AFTERLIFE

Packard’s (All it Takes, 2011) novel imagines an atheist’s experience in the afterlife.

Living out his waning years in an assisted living facility, 80-year-old Jack Treadwell isn’t surprised by his own death so much as he is by his final destination. As an atheist, he’s amazed to find himself in heaven, or at least a place that seems very much like it. Long-dead acquaintances and historical figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Studs Terkel traverse cloudlets, communicate freely and vanish as only spirits can. A figure resembling St. Peter informs Jack that his judgment—which will send Jack to eternal hell or eternal bliss—has been put on hold because God is in a sort of crisis. The creator of all things has become disillusioned with people. His teachings have been distorted by religion, his granting of free will to humans has resulted in centuries of bloodshed, and people like Jack think they can simply apologize for their misdeeds and receive eternal salvation. As Jack reflects on his time on Earth and learns more about the reality of the afterlife, readers are taken on a journey of personal inquiry featuring familiar feelings of guilt for past wrongs. Readers with undeveloped (or indifferent) ideas of the afterlife will likely relate to Jack and his concerns. How “good” does one have to be to enter the kingdom of heaven? Jack’s cloudlet surfing can prove dull at times, as when he takes a brief walk with Charles Darwin—a stimulating idea that may prove too heavy-handed for some. Nevertheless, Jack’s vision of the afterlife is decidedly as worrisome and varied as the character himself.

Slow at times, though the heartfelt glimpse of the afterlife and fears of judgment will strike a chord with many readers.

Pub Date: June 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484811702

Page Count: 208

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?

more