The life and times of an ordinary man, with longueurs and lack of drama intact.



Man dies, gets to hover around and check out what the family is up to.

In the latest example of our recent obsession with a nonsectarian afterlife, Duncan (I, Lucifer, 2003, etc.) takes your ordinary recently dead schmoe, Nathan Clark, and puts him in the ectoplasmic ether, floating through the lives and thoughts of his family and friends. In a well-rendered but confusing start, Nathan requires considerable time to get his bearings and figure out why all those people are staring at his grave. It takes some time for the reader, too, to get acclimated inside Nathan’s head, which is, not surprisingly, buzzing with questions but also seems to be meshing with the thoughts of the people he’s watching. With a certain guilty voyeurism, he takes an eye to what his daughter Gina is up to, as to whether she’s sleeping with that none-too-trustworthy boyfriend of hers (Duncan makes little attempt to play down the more naturally prurient aspects of Nathan’s and in fact seems to revel in them). Nathan also delves into his relationship with his wife, Cheryl, a spiky-tempered ball of trouble whom he hasn’t really been able to connect with since the tragic death of their younger daughter, Lois. The men in Nathan’s life aren’t any easier: his father is a remote and sad fellow, his son Luke a basically good but distant and hard-to-figure kid. There’s an affair here for Nathan to uncover, as well as a room in his house he can’t quite bring himself to go into—and then, too, there’s the matter of the reason behind his restless ghostly wanderings in the first place. Duncan’s portrayal of the afterlife is refreshingly unsentimental, and he has plenty of talent to spare on the highs, lows, and everyday frustrations of family life, but it’s hard even so for the attention not to wander.

The life and times of an ordinary man, with longueurs and lack of drama intact.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8021-7004-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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