Your basic sweet, funny, magical Holocaust story.

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THE TRICK

A 10-year-old boy’s quest to save his parents’ marriage puts him on the trail of a Holocaust survivor known as “The Great Zabbatini.”

The first chapters of Bergmann’s debut introduce two boys. One is Moshe Goldenhirsch, born to a formerly barren rabbi and his wife in Prague in the early days of the 20th century. The timing of the miraculous birth suggests there may have been some assistance from the locksmith upstairs. The second boy makes his entrance a full century later in Los Angeles. His name is Max Cohn, and infidelity is part of his story too—his father is being kicked out of the house due to his affair with a yoga instructor. “Your parents’ divorce, Max realized, is your true bar mitzvah. It is a rite of passage separating boys from men.” In alternating chapters we follow Moshe as he runs away with the circus, becomes a mentalist, gets a girlfriend, and finds great success in Berlin at the worst possible time, as the Nazis consolidate their power. Meanwhile, Max finds an LP among his father’s things called “ZABBATINI: HIS GREATEST TRICKS.” Among these is “The spell of eternaaaaal loooooove!” Max feels sure this spell will stop the divorce in its tracks—only the record is scratched, and that part won’t play. Well then, he'll just have to track down Zabbatini himself. Max climbs out the window, jumps on the bus, and heads to the Hollywood Magic Shop, where, amazingly enough, he gets some help locating the now quite elderly man. More lucky breaks, coincidences, credibility-stretchers, and other helpful plot devices culminate in—a magic trick at Auschwitz! Gott sei dank! Diversions en route include some admirably un–PC jokes—for example, in the Jewish community of West Los Angeles, “marrying the child of a Holocaust survivor was like marrying a Kennedy.”

Your basic sweet, funny, magical Holocaust story.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5582-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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