Thoroughly entertaining. Deeply imaginative. Highly recommended.



Waitzkin (The Last Marlin, 2000, etc.) dissects the life of a man who sells himself and other things, sprinkling the narrative with yachts, trophy homes and a cameo by Lenny Bruce.

There’s a nameless narrator, a freelance writer. There’s Jim, the salesman, “tempting and delicious and a little dangerous.” Whether it’s network-marketing, Quonset huts for Canadian farmers or sluicing gold out of the Amazon basin, Jim hones in "on disappointment and avarice” to offer happiness and optimism. It’s 1983. On a Bimini fishing retreat, the two men meet in a seaside bar. Jim is “fast and powerful...and handsome with a worn-out toughness.” The men become friends. As Jim’s story unfolds, mirrored by a narrator about whom little is revealed, readers are immersed in a tale much like a bastard mating of Heart of Darkness and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Forced to support his mother after his father abandons the family, Jim grows up to make one fortune after another, first in pyramid schemes, then selling rugged and practical Quonset huts, and finally robbing gold from the primitive Amazon. He loses fortunes too, walking away from Marvin Gesler, the brains behind the Quonset operation, when he discovered Marvin was skimming a bit off the top. The Amazon saga powers Waitzkin’s novel, where in the garimpo, the gold camp he and his workers have hewed from the jungle, Jim learns both what greed can cost and what it can teach. There he displays a mixture of hubris and loyalty when his foreman Ribamar “a sentinel among fools,” defends the camp against marauders. It’s scene and action, convoluted and complex, worthy of psychoanalysis. There are women—Jim's beautiful wife, Ava, who becomes Lenny’s obsession; Phyllis, compliant second wife; Angela, Brazilian tribal beauty; and most of all, Mara, a decades younger, married Israeli woman, calculating, audacious, preposterous, presumptuous, sensual. Waitzkin offers a singular and haunting morality tale, sophisticated, literary and intelligent.

Thoroughly entertaining. Deeply imaginative. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: March 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-01136-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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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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