And so it goes—each of Marciano’s stories is a gem, with fully realized characters wistfully and beautifully captured...

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THE OTHER LANGUAGE

Nine closely observed stories of growing up, dislocation and family relationships.

The first story in the collection gives the volume its title and presents a lovely reminiscence of childhood and adolescence, with all its fumbling awkwardness. Emma, Luca and Monica have recently lost their mother, and their father takes them to a Greek village for summer vacation and an opportunity to at least temporarily put aside their grief. There, they meet Nadia, a Greek teenager with an almost adultlike self-possession, as well as Jack and David, two adolescents from Britain. Over several summers as they all grow up, Emma becomes intrigued by David’s uninhibited mother and has her first sexual experience with David. The story ends with Emma bumping into Jack years later in Rome and finding out David’s tragic end. “Chanel,” the following story, introduces us to Caterina, a documentary filmmaker, and her gay friend Pascal, who persuades Caterina to buy an expensive Chanel dress, in part since she’s always lived a life in which self-indulgence is seen as a catalyst for guilt. Years later, she still has the dress—and still hasn’t worn it—but learns a deeper lesson about its true worth. “Big Island, Small Island” takes us to sub-Saharan Africa, where Stella, a scientist with an interest in biodiversity, meets Andrea, her expat ex-lover, and discovers how far apart they’ve grown. In “An Indian Soirée,” a couple’s marriage unravels in the space of a single day.

And so it goes—each of Marciano’s stories is a gem, with fully realized characters wistfully and beautifully captured through dialogue that is both pensive and poignant.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-90836-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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