Overdrawn yet readable portrait of collective advocacy and friendship at work, spearheaded by a valiant, relatable...

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What the Enemy Thinks

A BECK CARNELL NOVEL

Former women’s shelter counselor Picco, in her debut, traces the intertwining business and personal lives of an altruistic media consultancy executive.

Beck Carnell, a journalist-turned-CEO of media consultancy Social Good, becomes inspired by her agency’s latest media campaign, which involves carefully publicizing a dispute between the local Ontario Teachers’ Union and the Canadian government’s initiative to freeze wages and restrict the union from exercising its right to strike for three years. The intricate strategizing comes from several of Social Good’s best employees, including Yvonne Precipa, an overachieving media relations specialist, and Asmi, an Indian woman growing impatient with her husband Jai’s indifference toward revealing to his parents that they’d been married in secret. Another specialist, Todd Purcell, busies himself with an aggressive breast cancer campaign while facing political red tape and a precarious past. Adding to the mix is persnickety, rogue bookkeeper Tilda Grubbs, who has embezzled thousands and disappeared. Yvonne and Asmi’s storylines are introduced and resolved somewhat simplistically, whereas Beck’s character gets deeper development, particularly with remembrances of her childhood being regaled with her grandfather’s stories of Newfoundland, her high school days, and her impulsive marriage to former husband Anthony, whom she met while a college student. Beck struggles to provide emotional support for her two grown children while navigating their bitter animosity toward their father, and she aids best friend Samantha Reed, who’s learned of a devastating cancer diagnosis. While affable and devoid of the unsavory elements alluded to by the book’s title, Picco’s contemporary narrative suffers from a lack of plot as well as a surfeit of superfluous exposition. Such detail does little to heighten the narrative tension, particularly in a novel over 400 pages long. Nevertheless, the book’s resilient cast will generate compassion as its characters confront the social and political challenges facing teachers and charitable organizations.

Overdrawn yet readable portrait of collective advocacy and friendship at work, spearheaded by a valiant, relatable protagonist.

Pub Date: July 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-7003-0

Page Count: 318

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015

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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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