A second coming-of-ager from Swain (Eliot’s Banana , 2003) but, for obvious reasons, this heartfelt tale isn’t exactly...



Can a young Manhattan chef find happiness?

Ellie Manelli, known as Lemon, pretty much has it all. After several years, boyfriend Eddie still adores her. Bonus: he still likes to indulge in hot rooftop sex and cold champagne. Her new East Village restaurant, also named Lemon, is doing well, and she loves her work, reveling in the hectic pace of a professional kitchen and the long hours she puts in, ably assisted by an ethnically diverse staff. Wonder of wonders, though, she suddenly became the new It Girl of New York restaurants and still hasn’t quite recovered. Her Italian-American relatives thought cooking would be just a phase—they expected her to marry some hairy goomba from Brooklyn and have 27 kids. But no. Eddie is as preppy as they come, the Princeton-educated son of a textile magnate from Georgia. He has popped the question, though—several times. Unsure of herself, despite her successes, Lemon hasn’t said yes. Perhaps being orphaned at an early age has made her wary: her parents, described as beatniks (even though she’s far too young for that to be true), dumped her on willing relatives, ran off together, and were killed in an accident. So, okay, Lemon has commitment issues but nothing too serious. Uh, remember that careless rooftop sex? Lemon is pregnant. And suddenly nauseous. And sleepy. And feeling miserable and happy at the same time. At least Eddie is thrilled. But will his straitlaced family be? As soon as the Italian aunts know, they won’t leave Lemon alone for a minute. Should she marry Eddie? Does he still want to marry her? All this fretting is interspersed with inner monologues on the subject of pregnancy, addressed to the fetus (she’s sure it’s a girl). Unfortunately, Lemon suffers a miscarriage, described in bloody detail, that sends her into an emotional tailspin.

A second coming-of-ager from Swain (Eliot’s Banana , 2003) but, for obvious reasons, this heartfelt tale isn’t exactly entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7434-6488-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Downtown Press/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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


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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

Did you like this book?