A bit heavy on political rhetoric, but passionate female characters deliver a valuable message.

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IN THE COMPANY OF LIKE-MINDED WOMEN

The summer of 1901 in Denver sees the reunion of three sisters in this historical novel that hails the burgeoning independence of women.

It has been 11 years since Dr. Elizabeth “Lida” Clayton has seen her sisters, Mildred and Evangeline. When Lida married William after her graduation from Smith College, her mother was furious. William was a Northerner and his family manufactured guns used by the Union Army. During childhood, Lida was close to Mildred, who is three years older. But Mildred sided with their mother, creating a family schism. An unfortunate visit to the clan in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1890 resulted in a final blowout. Still, Lida, now a widow, remains in contact with her kid sister, Eva, who, at 25, is 15 years younger. Unexpectedly, Mildred and Eva accept an invitation to visit Lida and her two children, 15-year-old Sara Jane and 5-year-old Cole, in Denver, a hotbed of liberal thinking. Lida hopes this will lead to a reconciliation. But Mildred agreed to the trip as a ploy to help break up the developing romance between Eva and the man she is determined to marry, Bertram Dearman. Russell’s (All About Thailand, 2016, etc.) gentle narrative plays out over two months and, in alternating chapters, is narrated by the individual voices of Lida, Sara Jane, and Mildred (whom readers hear through her letters home and her journal entries). The literary device works well, giving full dimension to all three characters. This is part love story (romantic and familial) and part examination of the early days of women entering the professional arena, with a hefty measure of political discourse thrown into the mix. But the most intriguing underlying plotline tracks Mildred’s halting transformation from grim, frumpy temperance advocate to a lively participant in Lida’s progressive circle of accomplished women. Sara Jane provides much of the humor; her enthusiasm, innocence, and teenage angst are rather charming. And the author’s descriptions of a booming Denver at the turn of the 20th century re-create the excitement of a city moving into the future.

A bit heavy on political rhetoric, but passionate female characters deliver a valuable message.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73249-940-9

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Belles Histoires

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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