An often entertaining and suspenseful read.

GRANNIE PANTIES ARE UNDERRATED

In Erickson’s debut novel, a woman’s dark past threatens to surface and cause trouble in her current, privileged life.

Following her college graduation in 1992, Elle moves to Tokyo to teach English. She immediately meets Mitch, another American, and the two become close, bonding over their shared love of 1980s rock music. After being fired from teaching, Elle takes a job as a hostess and meets Tak, an alluring, wealthy Japanese man. After they start dating, Tak becomes abusive; Elle soon finds herself involved in his illegal drug business and threatened by his seedy colleagues. She also tries to be a supportive friend to Mitch, who’s dealing with his own struggles. In 2017, Elle is a wealthy, suburban wife and a mother to two teenagers: socially conscious, outspoken Brynnie and sporty, somewhat clueless Four. However, she harbors many anxieties—about her body and her marriage to tech company CEO Win Martin, for example—and is disillusioned with the superficial politics and helicopter parenting at Country Day, her kids’ elite school. Brynnie’s question to her (“Are you happy, Mom? Are you living your dream?”) often echoes in her mind. When Win suggests that they all accompany him on a Tokyo business trip, Elle is forced to confront her former life. She goes on to face dangerous figures from her past and painful, disturbing truths. The story alternates between the 1990s and the present. Throughout, Erickson reveals details about Elle’s upbringing, including her relationship with her neglectful mother and the impact that her baby brother’s death has had on her life. As a result, Elle comes across as a complex, multifaceted protagonist. The author deftly balances the plot’s heavier elements, including drug use and physical abuse, with borderline satirical situations, such as the absurdly inappropriate behavior of Country Day parents. Since childhood, Elle has sought direction from songs, relying on their lyrics to dictate how events in her life will play out, so the author frequently includes music references in the text. Perhaps due to the comprehensive back story, the plot’s resolution feels abrupt, and it would have been interesting to see the residual effects of some events.

An often entertaining and suspenseful read.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9989959-0-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mile High Publishing House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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