A busy narrative and supernatural elements somewhat distract from this tale’s powerful underlying message to break free from...



In this debut novel, a woman clings to life while learning her family’s legacy of witchcraft, infidelity, and secrets.

Ellie wakes up alone in a snowy field, disoriented but uninjured following a car accident. She wanders through the cold until she finds a small cabin and is welcomed inside by Grace, her dead great-grandmother. Grace was murdered by her husband in 1975 and has been waiting for Ellie and the opportunity to share a story. Though Ellie is not dead, it seems she has landed in the in-between. Grace spins the tale of her unhappy marriage and tragic demise, of the witches in their family and those who have suffered from curses and ill-intentioned magic. While Ellie struggles to make sense of her family’s unexpected past and the modern-day ramifications of these revelations, her husband, Joe McHugh, sits by her hospital bed wracked by guilt. He’s a drunk who has cheated on Ellie and denied her hopes for a baby. Joe promises to change but can only wait helplessly as his wife lies in a coma. Klinger-Krebs’ twisty narrative takes multiple paths, jumping between the past and present and the living and the dead. The author deftly shows that secrets have permeated generations of Ellie’s family, causing pain and unhappiness. Grace’s mother kept her witchcraft a secret and Grace hid both her heritage and later infidelity. Ellie’s mother and grandmother never spoke of magic. And Joe, who is keeping several secrets from his wife, let the silence fester and infect his marriage. Klinger-Krebs’ potent message that “when no one speaks about the past or the present…or even the truth…silence can become a room” is well-demonstrated through the unhappy marriages that populate the novel. There are a number of superb plotlines and intriguing characters, which make the addition of supernatural components an unnecessary diversion. The vivid story is at its best when it is grounded in the realities and messiness of living, the challenges inherent in relationships, and the difficulty of navigating daily disappointments.

A busy narrative and supernatural elements somewhat distract from this tale’s powerful underlying message to break free from the patterns of the past and embrace the future you desire.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-72577-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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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