WRITERS HARVEST 2

It may seem misanthropic to criticize a collection in which all 18 stories were donated to benefit Share Our Strength, an anti- hunger group. But charity shouldn't be a cover for bad writing, and this hodgepodge has more than its share of sloppy work. The tales reflect a common intent, the exploration of domestic life in all its messiness, returning again and again to the effort to define the meaning of ``home.'' Melanie Rae Thon's ``The Snow Thief'' focuses on an unhappy, childless woman, keeping a deathwatch for her father and looking back over her life; Po Bronson's ``The Impossible to Kill Me Game'' explores a fatherless young boy's fear of abandonment surfacing as his mother takes up with a new man. In Gary Krist's facile ``Sleep,'' an anxious broker in international finance chooses family over the incessant late- night calls from London. And in Louis B. Jones's clever ``Stone,'' a married man's focus on passing a kidney stone allows him to ignore everything else in his life crumbling around him. Judith Freeman revisits the muted world of her Mormon parents in ``Ofelia Rodriguez,'' the story of their unexpected daughter-in-law and grandchild. There are singularly amateurish stories by the poet Alice Fulton and newcomer Heidi Julavits: The first is a clumsy tale of Irish-Catholic spinster aunts, the second a confusing attempt at a cinematic-style chronicle about a distracted, impotent anthropologist, his suicidal wife, and the crew that chooses to film her death rather than save her. Robert Phillips's ``News About People You Know,'' tracing the inadvertent consequences of a social column in a small-town newspaper, stands out for its simple narrative virtues. Despite the claim that this is a collection of previously unpublished stories, at least two pieces (Frederick Barthelme's ``Dallas'' and Louis B. Jones's ``The Stone'') have appeared, in different versions, in print before. The consolation for this decidedly mixed collection: Your money goes to a good cause.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-600246-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

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?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

more