Pralines in a bed of melting homemade ice cream. Not a trace of humor.



Popular palazzo-renovator Mayes (Bella Tuscany, 1999, etc.) sets aside a bowl of perfectly sun-ripened pomodori to rest for a while, picks up her hefty, beautifully balanced penna, and has a go at a romanzo. Can’t be too hard, can it?

Well. The recipe here is lots and lots of sweet, tender ingredients from the days of the mid-’70s, before so awfully much money poured in and just changed everything in Georgia beyond recognition. When there were still grateful family retainers—with the accent on family, don’t you know—friends really, and there were still places like Swan, Georgia, a pretty little mill town where the mill has, alas, gone silent, but where the mill-owning Mason family, what’s left of it, lingers with enough money that siblings J.J. and Ginger Mason and their aunt Lily are free to live moody lives of their own choosing. Actually, archaeologically gifted Ginger has chosen to go live in—can you guess?—Tuscany, but J.J. still lolls around the local swamp, coupling with but never really relating to the local girls. Ginger married once, but her wedding was—well—eccentric, and then she got divorced. Aunt Lily, who went to Agnes Scott, never married, although a boy looked at her once. The Masons are haunted by the suicide of beautiful, artistic Catherine Phillips Mason, who shot herself through the heart with a .22. And now, all these years later, Lily and her friend Eleanor, on a trip to the local cemetery, discover the headstone of Lily’s father, “Big Jim,” despoiled with graffiti and the late Catherine exhumed, de-coffined, and lying in the grass. Ginger must fly home, and it will take a sympathetic sheriff and many, many pitchers of iced tea and lemonade to sort things out so that everything is as sweet and well ordered as poundcake and free-range strawberries.

Pralines in a bed of melting homemade ice cream. Not a trace of humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7679-0285-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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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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