This well-written work benefits from the heroine’s admirable willingness to examine herself honestly.


Split Rock


In this debut novel, a married woman confronts her might-have-beens and searches for her true self.

Annie Tucker, her husband, Gordon, and their three young children have spent many peripatetic years in Asia as Gordon climbed the career ladder. Now, in 1997, with the handover of Hong Kong approaching, they’ve moved back to the United States and are decamping to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer to stay in the small house left to Annie by her beloved Aunt Faye. Annie possesses many warm memories of the island’s beauty—and of Chase St. Clair, the former love of her life. When Gordon is called back to Hong Kong to deal with an emergency lasting weeks, perfectionist Annie must manage things, and soon becomes overwhelmed by the difficulties of life without a nanny or an instant expatriate community. When Annie nearly drowns after getting caught in a riptide and tells Gordon, significantly toning down the story, he doesn’t seem to listen, hurting her feelings. Vulnerable from the scare and sad about Faye, Annie runs into Chase (still handsome, still broad-shouldered, now married with kids), and strong emotions are stirred in both. Annie must figure out how real her feelings are for Chase; in the meantime, she makes some friends, acquires a dog and a mother’s helper, and faces down her now biggest fear: the ocean. In the process, she becomes more accepting of life’s cracks and imperfections. In her novel, Eger shows herself to be an intelligent, sensitive storyteller with a strong sense of place, vividly evoking the Vineyard’s residents, landmarks, shops, and atmosphere. She writes dialogue, creates characters, and develops her tale with great skill. But Annie’s life is so privileged that her very mild conflicts can fail to engage the reader. As she admits, “A lot of women would kill to have my problems.” Perhaps on this account, Eger gins up drama with Annie’s second dangerous swim; unlike so much of the book, which unfolds more naturally, this episode feels like contrived, forced redemption—even ending with an all-too-symbolic rainbow.

This well-written work benefits from the heroine’s admirable willingness to examine herself honestly. 

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9978351-0-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Conzett Verlag

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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