A colorful, surprising novel about an over-the-hill artist grappling with times gone by.

READ REVIEW

TAMBURLAINE

From the Broadway series , Vol. 3

In Kompes’ (The Middle Man, 2016, etc.) mystery, an aging drag performer tries to save his business—and his life.

Chris Marlowe is just trying to keep everything going: his looks, his sex life, his act, and his failing club, Tamburlaine, which he runs as a tribute to a dead lover. But when he starts a new relationship with a young cook named Ingram, who appears suddenly and offers to revamp Tamburlaine’s kitchen, Chris feels energized in a way that he hasn’t in years. He also reconnects with Jericho Taylor, an old friend and fellow drag performer who went on to Broadway success years ago. Jericho offers to do some performances at Tamburlaine in order to bring in much-needed crowds. Chris is just beginning to enjoy this unexpected second act—performing as real-life 1960s musical comedian Rusty Warren to a packed house—when he suffers a sudden, strokelike attack. A medical examination reveals that someone had slipped aconite into his bourbon to poison him. Chris recovers and gets to work on his big plans for the new Tamburlaine, which include an in-house theater troupe, a stellar restaurant, and a partnership with Jericho; he also continues his courtship with Ingram. Everything is falling into place when Chris is attacked outside the club by someone wielding a barrage of Molotov cocktails. It’s clear that before Chris can enjoy his success, he’ll have to figure out why someone wants him dead. Kompes writes in a confident, playful prose that perfectly captures Chris’ snarky worldview. Here, for example, he describes Chris’ reaction to seeing Ingram eat pie: “Watching young men eat made Chris feel the way he knew Whitman must have felt watching the boys swim in the Hudson.” That said, the novel takes a while to find its feet, as several unnecessary setup chapters weigh down the momentum. But once the story gets going, the reader quickly becomes invested in the mysteries surrounding Chris and his past. The novel’s ending is about as campy and melodramatic as a Tamburlaine show, and readers will likely find that to be a good thing.

A colorful, surprising novel about an over-the-hill artist grappling with times gone by.

Pub Date: March 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9793612-7-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Fabulist Flash Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more