Mawkish morass of gloom, lightly frothed with escapism. Sure to wow fans of Oprah laureate Mitchard (Twelve Times Blessed,...



Middle-aged woman beset by MS and a twerpy husband nevertheless triumphs, aided by her learning-disabled but preternaturally articulate teenaged son.

In this ungainly and overwrought sob-story, advice columnist Julieanne, an accomplished ballet dancer married to lawyer Leo Steiner, senses something awry when her leg won’t move during a Pilates stretch. Soon, Leo, who’s been courting eccentricity with New Age e-pen-pals, exercise binges, and penny-pinching, turns 49 and announces he wants a sabbatical from his job and marriage. After a trial trip, he decamps on a permanent bliss hunt. Julieanne, whose column pays a pittance, must scramble to cover the experimental Interferon shots she needs to forestall full-blown MS. Her teenage son Gabe, whose journal chronicles the far more entertaining half of this saga, steps into his father’s role with the Steiners’ late-life child, toddler Aurora, but drops out of school, where as a Special Ed student he has been mostly misunderstood. Leo’s mortified elderly parents and Julieanne’s lesbian psychologist friend Cathy also step up to help with Julieanne’s chaotic finances and MS- and chemo-induced meltdowns. Julieanne’s column is syndicated after a few entries, ghostwritten by Gabe and Cathy, amping up her reputation. Adolescent daughter Caroline, buffeted by too-abrupt personality shifts, won’t care-give, but she inaugurates a spring-break road trip, with Gabe, to retrieve Leo from his intentional community of jam-brewing weavers. Imagine their shock to learn that Leo now has an infant son and his 28-year-old consort is pregnant again. Not much else is left to the imagination, since each bump in the terrain of pain is micro-measured. But wait! Treacly, just-in-time rescue rides in with Matt MacDougall, grade-school dweeb turned wealthy and hunky surgeon, who, it turns out, still nurses a crush on Julieanne. Not only that, her poem is published by what sounds suspiciously like the New Yorker.

Mawkish morass of gloom, lightly frothed with escapism. Sure to wow fans of Oprah laureate Mitchard (Twelve Times Blessed, 2003, etc.).

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-058724-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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