An irreverent storyteller who has yet to run out of social norms to skewer.

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FLY ALREADY

The Israeli short story writer once again displays his knack for comic, absurd, occasionally dystopian observations.

In 2004, Keret (The Seven Good Years, 2015, etc.) wrote a children’s book called Dad Runs Away With the Circus, a sly tale about a father chafing at the binds of domesticity. He’s still exploring the theme a decade and a half later: The narrator of the title story is trying to save a potential suicide on a nearby rooftop, but his toddler son is clamoring for ice cream while the dad in “To the Moon and Back” promises anything in a candy shop to his son—who then petulantly demands the cash register. (The kids aren’t such great fans of conventional families either: In the gently Kafkaesque “Dad With Mashed Potatoes,” three children are happily convinced their father has shape-shifted into a rabbit.) Keret, who earlier in his career worked more often in flash-fiction mode, benefits from a wider canvas here, particularly in Saunders-esque speculative stories like “Tabula Rasa,” a fable about cloning, or “Ladder,” about the angels left to maintain heaven after God dies. And though Keret has typically eschewed directly addressing tensions in his home country, a number of these stories display the sharp spikes of good political satire, like “Arctic Lizard,” which imagines teenagers recruited for war duty during Trump’s third term. Better still is an untitled story constructed of emails between the director of an escape room who refuses to open his doors on Holocaust Remembrance Day and a stubborn would-be patron; their cartoonishly escalating squabble exemplifies the scramble for the moral high ground that characterizes diplomatic rhetoric. A handful of pieces have flat jokes or weak concepts, but every piece demonstrates Keret’s admirable effort to play with structure and gleefully refuse to be polite about family, faith, and country.

An irreverent storyteller who has yet to run out of social norms to skewer.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59463-327-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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