Aims for profound but settles for pleasant.

READ REVIEW

THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV

In a small Missouri town, a widower finds solace by reaching out to other troubled souls.

Arthur Moses, 85, goes every day to the cemetery to eat his lunch at his late wife Nola’s grave. At night, he dines on whatever canned goods he can cobble together, tries to prevent his cat, Gordon, from running away, and dodges the busybody next door, Lucille, who keeps trying to entice him onto her front porch with her delicious baked goods. (This book depicts so many luscious-sounding confections it should come with its own FDA label.) One day at the cemetery, Arthur meets Maddy, a teenager with a nose ring, who hangs out there. They strike up a friendship born of mutual isolation, and she dubs him “Truluv” for his enduring devotion to Nola. As the point of view shifts among these three characters, we learn that Maddy, now a senior in high school, has been ostracized by her classmates. Her problems stem in part from the fact that her father, who raised her alone, irrationally blames her for her mother’s death in a car crash soon after her birth. A retired schoolteacher, Lucille, also in her 80s, never married because Frank, her high school true love, wed someone else. However, Frank has recently resurfaced and is trying to rekindle romance in their twilight years. Maddy’s social life consists of hookups with an older man she met at Wal-Mart, and one of these trysts leaves her pregnant. When her father urges her to terminate the pregnancy, she takes refuge at Arthur’s house. He and Lucille become Maddy's surrogate parents, and, by taking over housekeeping chores, Maddy helps them age in place. Both are childless and look forward eagerly to the birth of the baby, giving Maddy the unconditional moral and financial support she has always craved. The life-affirming messages are far from subtle, and the fine line between sensitivity and sentimentality is often breached.

Aims for profound but settles for pleasant.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6990-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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?

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more