Informative, chatty, wry, often amusing, but not enough so that readers won’t be checking their watches. Or calendars.



Goldman (The Ordinary Seaman, 1997, etc.) returns to 19th-century Central America to trace the life and loves of a half-Indian, half-Irish near-nun who falls for José Marti.

Sexier-than-pretty María de las Nieves Moran entered one of the many convents in her nameless little Central American homeland not for love of God but for love of her bosom friend Paquita. It’s a long story (densely written, it’s muy long), but nubile, adolescent, and beautiful Paquita had become the romantic object of the much older El Anticristo, anticlerical leader of the current Liberal rebel forces. Paquita had promised not to lose her virginity until María de las Nieves had lost hers, so the latter’s vows should have put Paquita out of circulation forever. Not so. When El Anticristo, without too much trouble or bloodshed, seizes the country’s helm, Paquita becomes the first lady and María de las Nieves, whose misunderstood sacrifice has netted little save a severe allergy for wool, is out of a job. El Anticristo and his Liberal government have disbanded the monasteries and convents, driving the career nuns into hiding and the novices back into the world. Multilingual María de las Nieves cashes in her small inheritance to buy a little house and become a functionary in the English embassy, where she becomes the object of numerous crushes. She, however, has eyes only for Cuban revolutionary poet José Marti, who has eyes for just about anything in a skirt in general and the beautiful daughter of the deposed president in particular, his Mexican fiancée notwithstanding. Too bad she can’t see her way to loving ambitious autodidact and fellow Indio Marco Aurelio (“Mack”) Chinchilla until they’ve both gone through more perils and upheavals than Candide and Cunégonde. Everybody winds up in New York.

Informative, chatty, wry, often amusing, but not enough so that readers won’t be checking their watches. Or calendars.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-87113-915-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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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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