A pleasant digression through the back streets, though served up with a bit more nostalgia than may be good for you.

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THE ORCHARDS OF ITHACA

A neighborhood mosaic by the prolific Chicago novelist (Ghost of the Sun, 1990, etc.).

Petrakis’s tenth novel re-creates the atmosphere of the Windy City’s Greek Town through the eyes of local restaurateur and family man Orestes Panos. Orestes has seen a lot of change in his day. Just 50, he has lived all his life in Greek Town, where he runs a restaurant, the Olympia, that serves as a kind of townsquare for the locals who invariably pass through at some point each day. There’s the journalist Ted Banapoulos, Karvelas the undertaker; Orestes’s physician Dr. Savas; his parish priest Fr. Anton, and the nouveau riche meatpacker Sam Tzangaris. Happily married for 23 years, Orestes loves his wife Dessie but is beginning to chafe under the constraints of domestic life. For one thing, his odious mother-in-law Stavroula has recently moved in; for another, his teenaged daughter Marika is bleeding him dry with her shopping sprees. Orestes’s son Paulie is thinking of walking out of the shotgun marriage that his young wife’s family pushed him into the year before, and Paulie’s doubts are giving Orestes ideas of his own. When he meets Sarah Fleming, a young artist who lived in Crete for a while and shares Orestes’s passion for Kazantzakis, Orestes is at first intrigued, then smitten, and finally obsessed. Is this a belated case of the seven-year itch? Whatever it is, it soon takes on a life of its own and infects Orestes with massive pangs of guilt. Too bad he doesn’t know that Dessie has a few secrets of her own. And, in the meantime, Orestes has to find a way of clearing Fr. Anton of the false charges of pedophilia brought against him by the odious Sam Tzangaris. Just another day in the neighborhood.

A pleasant digression through the back streets, though served up with a bit more nostalgia than may be good for you.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2004

ISBN: 0-8093-2578-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Southern Illinois Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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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

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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