Worth a look: Obvious and a bit corny, but a good-spirited narration and some interesting western scenery.

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EVERY MAN’S HAND

A western farce from Mosher (The Last Buffalo Hunter, 2001), who populates a small Montana town with novelists, blind movie stars, demented cabbies, and civil-service strippers.

If you liked A Confederacy of Dunces but thought it a little much, this might be more your speed. Billy Bristol is a would-be writer and world-class layabout who knows he’s destined to be rich and famous but just can’t seem to break free of obscurity. Born and raised in the old mining town of Butte, Billy has his own apartment (the landlady is threatening to evict if he doesn’t pay up) but no job, and his unemployment benefits are running out. Buff, his demure but sexy caseworker at the unemployment office, comes through with a job referral in the nick of time: There’s a blind, 88-year-old German movie star named Andrea Kauffman in Butte who needs a personal assistant for a few hours each week. How did she end up there, you ask? Let’s keep it under wraps for now. Billy happily escorts Andrea about town, taking her to diners and describing for her all the paraphernalia on display in the town’s old brothel (now a museum). He also develops a highly unprofessional relationship with Buff at the unemployment office—only to discover, just as he’s reached the point of meeting the relatives, that her father is the dean who years ago had him expelled from college. Does Buff want to waste her time on a slacker like Billy? Does Billy want to waste his time on eldercare? It turns out that there’s more to Andrea than anyone had suspected, and Billy is in line for a major career move. Plus it looks like he can take Buff along with him, in more ways than one.

Worth a look: Obvious and a bit corny, but a good-spirited narration and some interesting western scenery.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-58574-458-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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