Peterson offers an amusing take on the mating habits of the Manhattan elite. And while the story holds few surprises, it...

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THE MANNY

Busy Manhattan mom in a shaky marriage to a self-absorbed lawyer hires a strapping young hipster to spend quality time with her neglected son, in Emmy-winning, former ABC News producer Peterson’s debut.

With a fulfilling TV producer job, three healthy kids and a fabulous Upper East Side apartment, Jamie Whitfield is grateful for the hand she has been dealt, in spite of her less-than-perfect relationship with her difficult husband Phillip. A spoiled preppy prone to ridiculous temper tantrums, Phillip is also a workaholic who spends very little time with his family. This has taken a toll on nine-year-old Dylan, who has become sad, distant and unable to deal with disappointment. Thinking that her boy would benefit from a stabilizing male force, Jamie interviews a series of college-aged potential mannies without luck. Her prayers are answered when she sees Peter Bailey working with a group of special needs youngsters in the park. He might only be substituting for a friend, but he is a natural with kids. The 29-year-old Colorado native is no dumb bunny either: He’s an Internet entrepreneur waiting on funding for a big project. Peter agrees to take Jamie’s well-paying and flexible gig at least until his money comes through. Once in her house, Peter proves to be outgoing and warm. He has a positive effect on the kids, with Dylan overcoming his issues under Peter’s big-brotherly wing. Peter also has an unexpected (to Jamie, if not the reader) effect on Mom, helping her see the hypocrisy of the hoity-toity world in which she lives, and getting her to stick up for herself at home and at work. Things with Phillip, meanwhile, continue to erode, and Jamie begins to realize she might have feelings for “the help.”

Peterson offers an amusing take on the mating habits of the Manhattan elite. And while the story holds few surprises, it benefits greatly from an attractive pair of would-be lovers.

Pub Date: June 19, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-34040-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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