A fully drawn portrait of a city and a life, this novel will hold appeal for history buffs, lovers of literary fiction, and...

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A DICTIONARY OF MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING

In British novelist Copleton's debut, family secrets and betrayals demand to be reckoned with, even after a world-shattering tragedy changes everything.

Grief-stricken, Amaterasu Takahashi and her husband, Kenzo, fled their hometown of Nagasaki, Japan, after losing their daughter and grandson to the atomic bomb. Almost 40 years later, widowed and friendless in Pennsylvania, Amaterasu's main companion is alcohol—until a disfigured man appears on her doorstep and claims to be her lost grandson, Hideo. His appearance sets off a firestorm of memories as Amaterasu reads a bundle of letters meant to prove their relation. Twenty-first–century readers will wonder why Amaterasu doesn't usher Hideo to the nearest doctor's office for a DNA test. Somewhat conveniently, the novel takes place in the 1980s, before such technology existed. As it is, Amaterasu's dilemma raises questions—what does it mean to accept a long-lost relative? Why and how is it worth it, when you can't know for sure? Amaterasu is hard but not bitter as she recounts her history, using calm and deliberate storytelling to draw full pictures of life before, during, and after the war. Copleton's perfectly paced hints and reveals of the Takahashi family secrets heighten the drama without causing the reader to feel manipulated. Each chapter begins by defining a thematically relevant Japanese word or concept, which adds cultural context to the novel without slowing the pace of the story or becoming overly didactic. Though Amaterasu's current life is defined by the bombing of Nagasaki, the novel is more than just a war story, taking readers back to her teen years and her life as a mother, when forbidden romances set the course for the future.

A fully drawn portrait of a city and a life, this novel will hold appeal for history buffs, lovers of literary fiction, and readers of high-drama romance.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-14-312825-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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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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