THE WANDERING FALCON

These sketches of life in the tribal lands between Pakistan and Afghanistan mark the debut of the 80-year-old Pakistani author. 

A timid young couple seeks shelter at a desolate military outpost. They are lovers; the camel herder has stolen away with his master’s wife. She gives birth to their son. Five years pass. The avengers track them down. The herder shoots his wife before he is stoned to death; the love child is spared. This opening episode has the timeless quality of a fable; unfortunately, nothing that follows matches it. Nor does the child serve as a link. He will be 12 before he is even given a name: Tor Baz, meaning black falcon. Later he will make occasional peek-a-boo appearances as an informer, a mountain guide and a trader at a slave market, but he’s far from being a developed character. The only links are the landscape (harsh, mountainous, forbidding) and the reflection of tribal customs. Often it is the documentary rather than the narrative details that linger in the mind. Take the Kharots, nomadic herders who move back and forth across the border according to the seasons. By 1958 the Brits have gone and the two states are demanding travel documents, but these illiterate herders have lived free of paperwork. They try outwitting the border guards but are eventually mowed down by machine guns. It’s a massacre, but a perfunctory one. Ahmad has big trouble with endings. There’s a kidnapping episode. It’s interesting to learn who make the best targets: “schoolteachers, doctors and street cleaners.” There’s a lot of talk but no narrative momentum, and suddenly it’s a done deal: Captives are exchanged for ransom money, smiles all around. Fascinating material that’s badly in need of artistic shaping.   

 

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59448-827-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more