Imaginative and thoroughly stimulating.

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GITA

BETWEEN THE UNKNOWABLE AND THE UNREAL

Kazden’s (TotIs, 2015) novel imagines a conversation between a Greek philosopher and a self-doubting military leader.

In his previous novel, the author brought together great minds from past eras, including Socrates, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci, to debate various concepts of truth and time. In this follow-up, he proposes two new definitions of reality: “totIs reality,” which is the one, true “prime reality,” and “antIs reality,” which is the individualistic interpretation of “totIs,” fabricated by our biosensory systems. Socrates returns to counsel a respected, fearless warrior named Gita, who’s the commanding general of an unnamed city that’s preparing for war. The opposing force is led by Gita’s uncle, Prince Fidi, and her cousins, Chatapodi and Kavouras. Gita’s fortitude is challenged by the prospect of spilling family members’ blood, causing her to reach out to Socrates for guidance. Her conversations with the philosopher span the length of the novel, drawing on wisdom from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita (after which Gita was named); the Chinese religious and philosophical text, the Tao Te Ching; and modern physics. The novel charts Gita’s journey toward a revelatory understanding of “totIs” and, in turn, a deeper conception of the world around her. Once again, Kazden demonstrates a rare ability to describe complex concepts with clarity and precision. He uses the character of Socrates to gently impart these ideas to readers: “Hot and cold are experiences of reality that are sensory driven, as are red and blue, happy and sad, near and far, before and after. All of our experiences of reality, in absolute terms, are sensory driven.” Kazden further embellishes the unique depiction of reality from his first novel with a specific emphasis on how “antIs” is a form of bondage, keeping people from the “freedom” and “truth” of “totIs.” The result is a thought-provoking intellectual journey that will encourage readers to reassess their own places in the universe.

Imaginative and thoroughly stimulating.

Pub Date: June 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72076-987-3

Page Count: 186

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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