A darkly enthralling tale that highlights Peet as a writer to watch.

READ REVIEW

THE GHOSTS OF HAWTHORN MISSOURI

A small-town Midwestern community suffers and seeks salvation in Peet’s debut novel.

The story opens in Jackass Flats, a dead-end section of Hawthorn, Missouri. The neighborhood has a checkered past; not long after its founding, the pastor’s wife was found shot between the eyes, and Pastor Stephen Shrine was hanged by members of the Ku Klux Klan. For generations, the residents bore the weight of this brutal legacy. Currently, the Haights are the only African-American family in Jackass Flats. The racial tension is palpable, and 9-year-old Terrence Haight has already developed an “internal strength” and an “involuntary hardness.” As he grows older, he develops a love of music, and after leaving the Army, he attends college in the hope of becoming a music teacher. His hopes are realized in Hawthorn only to be suddenly dashed when he’s accused of having an affair with a white student. Meanwhile, Father Redmond, the current pastor of Hawthorn Baptist Church, positions himself as the one man who can hold the community together—but he seems far closer to the devil than to the God he purports to serve. The novel follows the lives of a range of other disparate characters, including Eric, the pastor’s son—a young boy with a grudge and a psychotic streak—and Daniel, the son of Terrence’s former student, who seems cast adrift in a tempestuous world. Peet gives readers the uncanny sense that they’re looking down on a strange, ungodly place: “Hawthorn and Dogwood trees gave it a lovely appearance from Heaven, but perhaps not from the ground, where you could see it up close.” One can draw parallels between this book’s dark opening and John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (1945), as both capture a world inside a vacuum. As with Steinbeck, readers will become deeply engaged in the characters’ clumsy navigations through life, hoping that redemption or reparation will follow. Peet is a skilled writer who offers succinct and unique turns of phrase: “The wrinkles of Jim Crow hadn’t yet been fully ironed out in that part of the country.” Overall, he delivers a masterful debut that moves provocatively between a nightmare and grim reality.

A darkly enthralling tale that highlights Peet as a writer to watch.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Persimmon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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?

more