Flagg flies high, and her fans will enjoy the ride.

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THE ALL-GIRL FILLING STATION'S LAST REUNION

Flagg highlights a little-known group in U.S. history and generations of families in an appealing story about two women who gather their courage, spread their wings and learn, each in her own way, to fly (I Still Dream About You, 2010, etc.).

After marrying off all three of her daughters (one of them twice to the same man), Sookie Poole is looking forward to kicking back and spending time with her husband and her beloved birds. She’s worked hard throughout life to be a good mother to her four children and a perfect daughter to her octogenarian mother. Lenore Simmons Krackenberry’s a legend in Point Clear, Ala., and has always been narcissistic, active in all the “right” organizations, and extremely demanding. She’s also become increasingly bonkers, a disorder that seems to run in the Simmons family. Throughout much of her life, Sookie’s never felt as if she’s measured up to Lenore’s exacting standards, and she’s terrified she, too, might lose her marbles. Then, Sookie receives an envelope filled with old documents that turn her world and her beliefs about herself and her family topsy-turvy. Her emotional quest for answers leads Sookie down a winding yet humorous path, as she meets with a young psychiatrist at the local Waffle House and tracks down descendants of a Polish immigrant who opened a Phillips 66 filling station in Pulaski, Wis., in 1928. What she discovers about the remarkable Jurdabralinski siblings inspires her: Fritzi, the eldest daughter, developed a unique idea to keep her father’s business operating during difficult times, but her true passion involved loftier goals. During World War II, she used her exceptional skills to serve her country in an elite program, and two of her sisters followed suit. Finding inspiration in their professional and personal sacrifices, Sookie discovers her own courage to make certain decisions about her life and to accept and take pride in the person she is. This is a charming story written with wit and empathy. The author forms a comfortable bond with readers and offers just the right blend of history and fiction.

Flagg flies high, and her fans will enjoy the ride.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6594-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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