A lively novel that examines both edgy stereotypes and uncomfortable truths.



Bad parenting and Hispanics working in Southern California are at the core of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tobar's novel.

Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson are living the good life in Orange County, but when money problems begin to arise they reluctantly let go of most of their Mexican employees, leaving only Araceli Ramirez, their live-in maid. But tensions escalate between Scott and Maureen, culminating in a horrific argument after Maureen has their tropical forest uprooted and replaced by a desert garden costing twice what their previous gardener had earned in a year. Both husband and wife leave the house in a rage, each thinking the other will stay and take care of their three children, but while Maureen leaves with babe-in-arms Samantha, the two boys—eight and 11 years old—are left behind with the maid. Araceli does what she can to contact her employers, but for a few days they’re incommunicado. When she begins to get desperate, she takes them on a journey to find their grandfather in the heart of Los Angeles. Soon Araceli recognizes the difficulty of her quest, for she’s working from an old photograph and an outdated address. Meanwhile, Scott and Maureen return home, expecting to find their boys, and experience moments of panic and guilt when they find the house empty. They assume Araceli has kidnapped their sons, and when police get involved, the case explodes into a cause célèbre with Araceli at the center. From her point of view, she’s merely taken the best care she can of the children, but from the parents perspective she’s put them into danger by taking them into the wilds of L.A. And Scott and Maureen are extremely uncomfortable disclosing their own complicity in the situation, for they have, though unknowingly, abandoned their two sons for a four-day period.

A lively novel that examines both edgy stereotypes and uncomfortable truths.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-10899-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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