An incisive and highly readable novel of female friendship.


A busybody attempts to save her friend from financial ruin in Darling’s debut novel.

Can someone be too good a friend? Jane Desmond, the associate editor of a D.C.–based trade magazine for the construction-debris recycling industry, has lunch every Friday with her best friend, Thea Willis. “Whether it’s because we’ve known each other since we were kids, or because she’s just savvy that way, her instincts are spot-on,” Jane reflects. “If she weren’t my best friend I’d find it spooky, but since she is, it’s great. It’s like having a shortcut to a fabulous life.” On this particular Friday, however, it’s all bad news: Thea just lost her job and doesn’t know how she will afford the mortgage on the house she just bought. Jane immediately sets to work helping Thea find a new job—even as Thea prefers to wallow in self-pity. Thea soon tires of Jane’s mother-henning and tells her to back off. When Thea decides to take a two-week Caribbean vacation, the irresponsible decision throws Jane into overdrive, and she goes so far as to pretend to be Thea and apply for jobs. How far can Jane bend a friendship before it snaps? And why is she so much more invested in Thea’s problems than her own? Darling’s (Terms and Conditions, 2019) prose is funny and sometimes quite biting, as in this exchange in which Jane gets some tough love from her own highly intrusive mother: “ ‘Darling, you tend to lay it on a bit thick.’ ‘A bit thick?’ ‘You mean to be helpful, but sometimes you can be…too much.’ She sighed. ‘I don’t know how I let you get this way.’ ‘So I’m bossy?’ ‘Not bossy, not really. Just…suffocating.’ ” Jane is constantly overstepping in a way that drives the reader crazy, and yet she is somehow affable enough to keep the audience on her side. The author does an excellent job portraying a highly believable relationship in which both parties have serious flaws and exploring the broader troubles of 30-something women when it comes to careers, money, and romance.

An incisive and highly readable novel of female friendship.

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997003-0-3

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Bricolage Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2019

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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