Meyers’s work occupies an uncomfortable middle ground between historical truth (Grant’s policy and its repercussions) and an...



The experiences of a young white man overseeing the lives of the fictional Awahi Indians of New Mexico.

Quill Thompson and his wife, Jane, are from poor Texas farming families. Quill taught for the Indian Service for three years in Phoenix before, in 1923, becoming principal of a school in a remote pueblo near Gallup, N.M. He has acquired a reputation as a Young Turk, opposed to the Federal policy of “Christianize and civilize” initiated by President Grant. He believes the Indians should be allowed to preserve their own languages and customs, though his bureaucratic supervisor has warned him not to rock the boat; as Indian agent, he will oversee all aspects of pueblo life while Jane, a nurse, establishes a clinic. Awahi is an unattractive assignment; the land is infertile and the wind blows constantly. Quill must confront not only Mrs. Wallis, a battleaxe who whips the children, but two obnoxious Protestant missionaries. The more prominent is Thomas Sandringham, an eccentric figure who performs magic tricks, has done time for mail fraud and chastises the Indians at every turn. (A similar charlatan was the protagonist of Meyers’s 1989 debut, Geronimo’s Ponies). The Awahis are represented by two canny but taciturn leaders, one secular, the other spiritual, and also by colorful masked figures at a rabbit hunt and a harvest celebration. The community has a severe water shortage, and Quill persuades the leaders to have wells dug inside the pueblo; this he will regard as his “supreme achievement.” Meyers writes fluidly, but he plots like a rank amateur. He gives us episodes but no storyline; what should have been its centerpiece (the murder of Sandringham) does not occur until almost the end, and it leaves his protagonist, Quill, high and dry, with nothing to do but concur with Awahi justice.

Meyers’s work occupies an uncomfortable middle ground between historical truth (Grant’s policy and its repercussions) and an extrapolation into fiction of Indian tribal customs.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2007

ISBN: 0-89672-599-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Texas Tech Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2006

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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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