Funny, clear-eyed look at female friendship from the prolific Heller (Lucky Stars, 2003, etc.).

BEST ENEMIES

What if your best friend turned into your worst enemy?

Is it legal to kill someone who has sex with your fiancé right before your wedding? Is it a little bit legal? Amy Sherman would like to know. She walked in on Tara Messer, naked and straddling an equally naked Stuart (admittedly an unimpressive sight—hunkalicious he is not) just as Tara shouted, “Take me home!” Four years later, Amy’s still sulking, while Tara and Stuart decorate a Mamaroneck mansion with tchotchkes bright and beautiful when not rolling around in the millions he makes running the family chain of gourmet grocery stores. Moving right along, Amy, a publicist for Lowry & Trammel, a New York publishing company, is not exactly thrilled with her new assignment: drumming up interest in Tara’s book of self-help advice for miserable women everywhere. Simply Beautiful is a shoo-in for the bestseller lists, even if it’s mostly recycled stuff swiped from others—hey, just like the way Tara swiped Stuart, Amy muses. In a fit of pique, Amy makes up an imaginary fiancé just so her life won’t seem utterly pathetic compared to that of her former friend. But then—yikes!—Tara, disgustingly gracious, invites her and the nonexistent fiancé to dinner, so she’s going to need a real one. One quick look at the self-appointed office studs and Amy’s ready to look elsewhere. How about mystery author Tony Stiles? He’s tall, sexy, and breathing—he’ll do. Segue to Tara’s POV and deep, dark secret: Stuart is a prize jerk and compulsive womanizer who’s mixed up with the Russian mob in a caviar-importing scheme. She’s far from happy and her life is far from perfect, but she’s determined to do something good for Amy. Another trip down the aisle awaits them both, but the roles—and the rules—are about to be reversed.

Funny, clear-eyed look at female friendship from the prolific Heller (Lucky Stars, 2003, etc.).

Pub Date: April 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-28849-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2004

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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