A quirkily convincing but ultimately stagnant tale.

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MERMAIDS ON THE MOON

Stucky-French follows her story collection (The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa, 2000) with a soggy first novel about family relationships and synchronized swimming.

France has been happily living in Indianapolis ever since she traded in her husband Ray for her “downwardly mobile” high-school boyfriend-cum-artist Bruno, and her social work career for a job at the gallery Womenspace. But when a call comes from her father, North, in Tampa, to say that her mother has disappeared, the problem isn’t just that of a missing wife. North seems unconcerned about Grendy, who he claims has run off; what worries him is who will take care of six-year-old Theo, the odd fatherless child of Beauvais, France’s black sheep sister who was killed in an automobile accident just when she was getting her life back on track. When France flies to Tampa, she finds not only a strangely distant North and a needy Theo but a disgruntled group of aging women who perform underwater wearing mermaid tails at Mermaid Springs. The “Mermaids of Yesteryear,” or the “Merhags,” as they call themselves, need Grendy, who, re-donning her tail at age 60, snagged the star role in their new production, “Mermaids on the Moon.” France has her own problems, hoping to become a partner in the gallery back home but terrified that the owner, Naomi, will be furious to find out that France’s most profitable artistic discovery, Bruno’s life-sized dolls, are actually the creation of a male artist. All ends well when France confronts her father, relishes her time with Theo, confesses to Naomi, and rises to the challenge of rehearsing her mother’s part as an astronaut in the mermaid extravaganza.

A quirkily convincing but ultimately stagnant tale.

Pub Date: June 18, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-49894-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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