An absorbing novel carried by a seemingly hopeless protagonist you will want to befriend and save.

READ REVIEW

PROBLEMS

The sardonic story of one woman’s eating disorder and drug abuse.

Maya, the appealing protagonist of this aptly titled debut novel, is not OK. Her husband, Peter, is an alcoholic; her mother is dying of multiple sclerosis; her late father gave her no attention or affection while he was alive; she is having an affair with a comparably unloving father figure, her professor; she has been unable to get pregnant, despite desperately wanting a child; she is anorexic, living on, at most, 400 calories’ worth of peach yogurt a day; and, on top of all this, or maybe because of it, she’s been regularly using heroin—a “chipper”—since she was 18. At first, Maya tries to keep her habit minimal, never using more than three days in a row. But when Peter leaves her, those boundaries vanish; she thinks to herself, “Just be a junkie now.” To earn money for drugs, she cruises Craigslist for men willing to pay for dates and intimate encounters. And so begins a cycle of varyingly violent sex, extreme heroin use, and lost days. The ease of such a life leaves little motivation to stop. “Also,” she writes, “I wasn’t thin and blond. I could have cleaned up if I was.” In graceful prose, the narrator recounts the hours spent high: “Sounds folded back into the world, moving on, light-years from the living room where I lay around, hardly living.” The novel is written so well that the relentless and destructive rhythm of heroin abuse seems calming, metaphysical, and occasionally even funny. Sharma's descriptions are vivid and sage—“Sometimes it felt like there was blackness underneath everything. Like a Rothko painting, how the blackness bleeds through”—lulling readers into a similarly opiate state to which they will readily succumb and from which, like the protagonist, it will take some time to recover.

An absorbing novel carried by a seemingly hopeless protagonist you will want to befriend and save.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56689-442-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

Did you like this book?

more