A time-hopping tale that should appeal to readers with an interest in the prehistoric period.



This debut omnibus unites all three installments of a story that connects a pregnant woman in the late Pleistocene era with her modern-day descendant, a researcher who gets entangled in a terrorist plot.

Raven is an early human woman who is forced to join her sister’s clan after her mate dies. Her sister’s husband and clan leader, Bear, treats Raven with disdain when he is not sharing her bed. When they encounter an injured Neanderthal man—scornfully referred to as a “Longhead” by the clan—Raven uses her skills as a healer to nurse him back to health. Upon realizing she is pregnant, and that the likely father is the Longhead, not Bear, Raven flees the clan to find and hopefully join the Longheads, all the while wondering what the offspring of these two distantly related but still very different groups of people will be like: “Those heavy brows and the heavily muscled build made an unattractive combination when she struggled to imagine a female infant.” In the present day, Mark Hayek, a Parkinson’s disease researcher in whose veins runs the blood of Neanderthals thanks to a union between them and the early humans, must travel to the Levant to sort out a family inheritance. But he soon realizes that his cousin Antun may be under the sway of a terrorist group known as the Lions of the Levant and may be manipulating Mark for selfish gains. Swan is clearly heavily influenced by Jean Auel, although her writing is less explicit than that of The Clan of the Cave Bear author. Raven’s story vastly outshines that of the hapless Mark, who frequently comes off as astonishingly and annoyingly naïve. The differences between early humans and the Neanderthal Longheads should fascinate readers (At one point, Raven observes: “Stories she heard about the Longheads hadn’t prepared her to expect that the forms below would look so much like actual men. Their bodies were broader, and something was off about their arms and legs”). And the prehistoric world, filled with bison, hyenas, wolves, and two-legged predators, is portrayed in all of its harsh, hostile glory.

A time-hopping tale that should appeal to readers with an interest in the prehistoric period.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5407-8994-5

Page Count: 412

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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