A small gem.



The unexplained advent of a white turkey marks a turning point in the lives of a Lakota medicine woman and her granddaughter, in the latest from Washburn (American Indian Studies and English/Univ. of Arizona; Elsie’s Business, 2006).

It’s 1963, and Hazel Latour’s granddaughter Stella, whom she took in after her mother died, is about to turn 13. On Easter Sunday, Hazel and Stella find a white turkey scratching at their door. Their farm, on the Lakota reservation in South Dakota, is so remote that the turkey’s provenance is a mystery. The fowl’s appearance lends even more cachet to Hazel’s practice as a medicine woman. Her clients, who come to her for spiritual as well as medicinal healing, leave gifts in the form of staples, which supplement the meager income Hazel earns from selling eggs, cream and vegetables and from leasing out much of her acreage to a white farmer. As the annual midsummer Sun Dance approaches, Hazel’s schedule of consultations is packed as she prepares her clients to participate in the grueling three-day dance, during which some dancers are connected to a pole by rods piercing their chests. When Stella catches tribal official George Wanbli, Hazel’s rival shaman, skulking around the house, she suspects he’s after the white turkey, considered wakan—sacred—by the community. After the Sun Dance, Hazel and Stella return to the farm to find that someone has massacred their chickens. The white turkey has been crucified on the front door, but, miraculously, she survives. Hazel suspects George, and will later learn that her small family is in even more danger after she stumbles on evidence that George and other tribal leaders are skimming thousands off the top of farm leases, like Hazel’s, that they administer. Would George resort to kidnapping to protect his embezzlement scheme? If not, why did Stella’s best friend Avril, wearing her orange cap, disappear during her birthday picnic? Hazel’s pluck and resourcefulness, and Stella’s brashness and fierce loyalties, are lovingly portrayed against a backdrop of appreciation for the land and its bounties. 

A small gem.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8032-2846-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bison/Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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