Despite a flawed ending, this deeply felt tale delivers a vivid and unflinching look at postpartum depression, marriage,...




A woman of the early 20th century struggles for self-determination in the face of unexpected love, unimaginable loss, and the stigma of a little-understood mental illness.

In this historical novel by nonfiction author Notbohm (The Autism Trail Guide, 2014, etc.), 26-year-old Annie Rushton leaves home after her abusive mother’s death in 1911, seven years after her own violent episode of postpartum psychosis. That incident culminated in a shattering divorce and the loss of Annie’s parental rights to her then-infant daughter. (“The law is meted out by men,” says a not-unsympathetic judge.) Annie joins her older brother on his homestead in Montana with hopes for a fresh start and soon marries dynamic salesman-turned-farmer Adam Fielding. Their heated passion for each other and their drive for economic success bond them; their mutual desire for a child eventually frays that link. After each miscarriage and after the death of an infant daughter, Annie loses herself to long bouts of severe depression and psychosis. Although there is no divorce, the marriage essentially ends when, during her last pregnancy, Annie is court-ordered to be committed to a mental asylum. Notbohm’s character-driven narrative, spanning more than two decades, is both graceful and unflinching. Annie’s haunting and revelatory dreams, a recurring device, deepen readers’ insights into her psyche. The fecundity of the land (“flat and fertile, ringed by cottonwoods and the opaque Milk River, with its curious lightened-tea tint”) provides a stark contrast to Annie’s brutal miscarriages with their “slaughterhouse” smell. In the descriptions of the disintegration of the marriage, Adam’s emotional unraveling is given authentic weight, as is the societal condemnation Annie faces and the male-dominated legal and medical view of postpartum depression as a moral failing or “madness.” The author doesn’t sugarcoat Annie’s episodes of near catatonia and manic rage or her subsequent road to self-determination, a complex journey of grief, fulfillment, betrayal, and forgiveness. The one defect is the story’s ending: a too-pat catharsis wrapped in self-conscious, poetic sentiment. The book’s title, inspired by Thoreau and the constellation Pegasus, refers to the quilt Annie designs for Adam as a groom’s gift, a recurring, bittersweet symbol of intimate memories, hopes for the future, and, ultimately, absolution. 

Despite a flawed ending, this deeply felt tale delivers a vivid and unflinching look at postpartum depression, marriage, love, and death in the early 1900s.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-335-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 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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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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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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