The phony happy ending mars what is for the most part a cringingly funny satire of love and money among the artsy class.

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THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE

From the opening scene in which an earthquake shakes Los Angeles, Brown’s tart second novel (All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, 2008), about a pair of hip Californians facing financial and marital collapse, couldn’t be more timely. 

Rising filmmaker Claudia and indie rock star Jeremy married and bought their 1,300-square-foot bungalow for $600,000 during the height of the housing bubble. With a big movie contract pending for Claudia and an album deal in the works for Jeremy, the couple plans to be out from under the increasingly steep interest-only mortgage payments soon. Unfortunately, after a film Claudia’s written and directed tanks at the box office, her new contract dries up while Jeremy’s band dissolves before finishing an album. Moreover, Jeremy has not paid the mortgage for several months and now the bank won’t renegotiate the loan. As the possibility of losing the house looms, cracks appear in the marriage. Responsible, hardworking Claudia’s more conventional side emerges; desperate to keep the house, she takes a job teaching film at a private high school. Jeremy, who works fitfully as a T-shirt designer and takes pride in his bohemianism, which borders on irresponsibility, was already chafing at the demands of the house when the mortgage crisis arose. Before he met Claudia, he had been a music/art world darling in New York, the lover and muse of a now world-famous artist named Aoki. One of her paintings of him hangs in the bungalow, and he refuses Claudia’s request to sell it despite the needed cash it would bring. Instead they take in a tenant who sets the house on fire. By then Aoki, emotionally unstable but still alluring, has shown up to tempt Jeremy away from his marriage. A desperate Claudia is engaging in her own moral capitulation—falsifying a student’s grades to get a lucrative film deal from the girl’s father.

The phony happy ending mars what is for the most part a cringingly funny satire of love and money among the artsy class.

Pub Date: June 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-52403-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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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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