An enchanting spiritual odyssey that endures beyond story's end.

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GONE TO THE STARS

A young man's out-of-body experience opens the door to spiritual adventures.

Thomas McKenzie, 20, lives in a world of privilege and wealth, marred by the behavior of his psychotic mother and her threats of disinheritance should he pursue a relationship with his father. After a violent scene in their New York apartment, Tom retreats to a roof-top terrace where he leaves his body and visits distant stars that welcome and comfort him. His senses acutely sharpened, he reluctantly returns to Earth and the demands of his boss, "the Chairman," head of the Chicago-based Apollo Corp. Frustrated with the establishment, Tom quits his job and parties hard with what little remains of his finances. He then accepts an offer from his friend Caroline, also a child of wealth, to stay and work at a girls' camp in New Orleans. He heads south in a Volkswagen Beetle, hoping for romance with Caroline and instead finding friendship and a group of young girls who think he’s pretty cool. He learns about himself while telling stories, riding horseback and singing songs. He also encounters the Chicken Man–the "voodoo king of New Orleans"–who sheds light on a personal mystery. Tom then leaves the Big Easy and heads west, agreeing to rendezvous with Caroline later in Aspen. On the road, he meets many travelers, including a band of hippies, Caroline's drug-dependent friends, philosopher Merlin, an ex-Marine in search of intelligent life in the universe, man's best friend Rocket and more. Tom confronts danger, enjoys sensual pleasures–sex, pot, cocaine, hallucinogenic mushrooms–and falls in love. But beneath it all is his earnest quest to understand the soul and his place in the universe, which makes him a most endearing character. This is a gentle, quietly sensuous, beautifully crafted story with appeal for mature readers, young adults and any student of life who seeks greater self-understanding and fulfillment.

An enchanting spiritual odyssey that endures beyond story's end.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4415-9827-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

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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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