The best comedic novel in years. Handey is a master. Fans will be quoting lines from this book for a long time. If you like...

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THE STENCH OF HONOLULU

A TROPICAL ADVENTURE

Deep Thoughts creator Handey (What I’d Say to the Martians, 2008, etc.) pens his first novel, an absurd adventure set in Hawaii.

The unreliable narrator is Slurps (he picked the nickname). He’s clueless, inappropriate, delusional, dim: an all-around misguided, comedic nightmare. Among his life goals: to someday throw a hand grenade. “Maybe I’ll get to do that in Heaven,” he muses. As the book opens, Slurps and his friend Don book a vacation to Hawaii (a “mysterious place” Slurps has never heard of) to get away from it all—in Don’s case, from an ex-wife; in Slurps’ case, from violent men to whom he owes money. After receiving a Hawaiian “treasure map” from their travel agent showing the way to a valuable relic called the Golden Monkey, the two decide to steal the object. Before they depart for the islands, Slurps visits Uncle Lou, an ailing treasure hunter who, upon learning of Slurps’ plan to steal the Golden Monkey, drugs Slurps and then implants a tracking device in his tooth. “The trouble with going to Uncle Lou’s was he was always drugging you,” Slurps notes. Indeed. The Hawaii of the book is not a place any tourist would recognize. Honolulu is a “dirty, coastal backwater” stinking of fish heads and featuring in its town square “a bronze statue of the discoverer of Hawaii, Sir Edmund Honolulu III,” not to mention lots of bums and prostitutes. This Hawaii has its own currency, the paleeka, and the bars serve bowls of dried geckos in lieu of beer nuts. The beaches showcase rusty cars that have washed ashore. Slurps' observations are epic throughout: "A scary-looking transvestite put flower necklaces around our necks and said, 'Aloha.' Someone told me later that aloha is a curse word." Things take a turn for the much worse when Slurps acquires a hula-girl souvenir that in fact turns out to be cursed. (See Bobby Brady in the 1972 Brady Bunch Hawaii episodes.) Disasters ensue. The journey into the jungle in search of the Golden Monkey finds Slurps and Don battling pirates, getting hit with blow darts and meeting a native woman that Slurps hits on using his favorite pickup line, "what's your religion?" The doomed expedition culminates in a riot, complete with a pitchfork-wielding mob, inside a national park. It's Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness meets the 2008 film Tropic Thunder. Ridiculous fun through and through. You have to love a guy who goes out looking for hiking supplies and comes back with bottles of scotch and packs of cigarettes. A true outdoorsman, he.

The best comedic novel in years. Handey is a master. Fans will be quoting lines from this book for a long time. If you like the work of George Saunders, this one's for you.

Pub Date: July 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-455-52238-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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