Largely forgettable short works by the acclaimed author of the Mexico-set Stones for Ibarra (published in 1984, when Doerr was 73) and Consider This, Se§ora (1993). Doerr's restrained lyricism is reminiscent of M.F.K. Fisher and William Maxwell. Her limpid prose, masterfully varied in its rhythms, shows to best advantage in the two autobiographical reminiscences that open and close this volume. The title piece, undertaken at the urging of the author's middle-aged son (who's dying of cancer) and daughter, skims quickly over the particulars of a long life, but Doerr's assured control of tone persuades us of her deep involvement with her material. She can, for example, capture the whole sweep of a life in a single emotionally charged perception (``My son's first word was `car,' and, as of two months ago, his doctor has forbidden him to drive''). And the concluding ``Edie: A Life'' movingly memorializes the lonely Englishwoman who raised a California widower's five young children. A section of ``First Work'' and another entitled ``Mexico'' collect what we may as well call Doerr's juvenilia: thinly developed alternative versions of materials from her two novels, in which the same images and narrative elements (the vaguely dishonest mozo employed by Americans living in Mexico, the roar of a lion in a nearby zoo) repeatedly recur. Many of the putative stories are really only gatherings of impressions, though ``The Local Train'' does offer a revealing portrayal of the sustaining power of Catholicism among Mexico's poor, and we do get to see Doerr's gift for the occasional odd, compelling juxtaposition (``At an Easter service, she suffered a severe muscle spasm at the beginning of the Apostles' Creed''). It seems fair to say that this fragile volume wasn't subjected to very rigorous editing, and that much of its content need not have been preserved. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-86471-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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


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 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?