The Disinherited was probably written earlier than Fixer Chao, and is in no way its equal.

READ REVIEW

THE DISINHERITED

A Chinese Filipino leaves life in America and tries to come to terms with his Manila family’s ill-gotten wealth.

Prizewinning playwright Ong’s rangy successor to his critically praised debut (Fixer Chao, 2000) is a rather more diffuse book, despite its consistent focus on a strongly imagined central character. He’s 40-ish Roger Caracera, a Columbia University writing teacher, whom we meet as he’s bringing home for burial the body of his father Jesus, a notoriously corrupt sugar baron. Roger suffers silently through a lavish funeral tribute stage-managed by his paternal Aunt Irene, a privileged matron who wears their family’s wealth like a glossy second skin. And when Jesus’s will unaccountably (and unbelievably) leaves half a million dollars to Roger, the guilty “prodigal” undertakes to make restitution for his father’s rape of their homeland’s resources—for example, “doling out financial reparations to the descendants of the Caracera cane cutters.” But Roger’s charity is repeatedly refused or manipulated—by a formerly idealistic Peace Corps worker who has insulated herself with creature comforts; a “Missionary woman” unwilling to challenge the Catholic Church’s ban on birth control; a teenaged tennis brat who lavishes contempt on all who try to help him; and 15-year-old gay hustler Pitik (a.k.a. “Blueboy”), an ingenuous romantic who wants his benefactor’s love even more than the latter’s money. The story leapfrogs thus among numerous incidents and viewpoints, coming to a muted conclusion with Roger’s second return to Manila for a meeting with his mother Teresa, a vibrant beauty who had lost her soul to the Carcaeras’ duplicitousness and has languished for decades in an insane asylum. It’s an oddly unsatisfying climax to what ought to have been a riveting tale but instead separates out into unstructured, flickering fragments.

The Disinherited was probably written earlier than Fixer Chao, and is in no way its equal.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-374-28075-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more