Moya has written a tight little novel that is wickedly witty and built on the idea of memory as a never-ending cause of...

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THE DREAM OF MY RETURN

An exquisitely wry novel that builds on the infinite variations of anxiety as narrative force.

A hypochondriac journalist living in Mexico visits a doctor for pain in his overwrought liver, and the history of a life is examined. He wants to return to El Salvador now that peace seems to be settling in, especially now that his wife has confessed to having an affair. The doctor is more of an alchemist, and the setting is surreal—an elegant penthouse where women drink tea and play canasta. Don Chente is a doctor, acupuncturist, psychologist and homeopath in one; he asks personal questions that probe the journalist’s intentions. Hypnosis opens memories, real or imagined, from the patient's childhood—of his father and of the murderous politics that sent him and his uncle Muñecón into self-imposed exile in Mexico 11 years earlier. His dream of returning to his homeland is a self-inflated vision of the brave journalist reporting the sordid facts of the revolution when in reality the turmoil is about over. Mysteriously, Don Chente disappears, and the journalist is now driven by needs that include discovering what the doctor learned from him while he was under hypnosis. Paranoia creeps in as he envisions the doctor as a political informant. A drunken romp through Mexico City ensues, and when Erasmito, the journalist named only once in the novel, in a memory, passes through security at the airport, he sees his doctor passing him on his way back into Mexico. He erupts with anxiety; he is hopeless, helpless, and his life is a never-ending cycle of hypochondria, paranoia and the absurd.

Moya has written a tight little novel that is wickedly witty and built on the idea of memory as a never-ending cause of inspiration and turmoil.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2343-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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