A surrealist novel of political intrigue.
The De Wardins’ debut is set in the fictional country of Voskia. As a duchess, Maria Langlord has led a privileged life, but this 19-year-old is not the perfect debutante her parents and their acquaintances believe her to be. Secretly she’s been taking ballet lessons in Unsettled Town, which, though geographically close, is greatly removed from the world Maria has always known. It is here that she meets and becomes involved with a cast of peculiar characters and once again comes in contact with the dangerous but dashing violinist that crashed her birthday party. There’s political unrest in Voskia: a new political party and a presidential candidate, Hillborn, whose racist ideology is stirring up trouble. Maria’s parents and governess have fallen under his spell, even as Maria is making new friends among the Romanies that the party despises. Maria is pulled into the thick of things when she learns that she has an uncle she’s never met and when she’s entrusted with valuable, coveted information. Hillborn’s campaign grows in strength, in part because he has a habit of killing off the opposition. Maria is caught between two worlds, and the actions she takes lead to a cliffhanger ending that sets the stage for a sequel. The novel has a dreamlike quality, particularly in the descriptions of Maria’s forays to Unsettled Town. The wordy writing style has the feel of something written with a thesaurus in one hand: “Lord Byronaless, his bejewelled hands wriggling over his covered cranium, bravely let his short legs laboriously take his stout self in the direction of the individual who had fired: Chief of Police Croft Rainhard.” Elsewhere, foreign phrases—“Isso ai meu povo! Samba no pe!”—and a few other terms are clarified in footnotes. Still, the imaginary setting and undefined time period allow for comparisons to historical and modern events, and readers who can wade through the clunky text will find an intriguing story with a sympathetic protagonist.

Surrealist scenes and complicated language get in the way of an exciting, suspenseful story that’s part coming-of-age tale, part political thriller.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479747436

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2014

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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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