A poignant exploration of a timely political topic.

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UNBROKEN THREADS

In Klepper’s debut novel, a stay-at-home mom longing for greater purpose returns to work as a pro bono lawyer and finds herself representing a Syrian refugee seeking asylum. 

Jessica Donnelly worked as a high-priced corporate lawyer for a white-shoe firm but walked away from her career in order to raise her three children. Ten years later, she feels unfulfilled, especially as she watches her husband’s career bloom. She decides to return to work as a volunteer for the International Asylum Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to assisting refugees seeking safety in America from political persecution and war. Jessica takes Amina Hamid’s case. Two years ago, Amina fled the violent tumult of Syria to stay with relatives in Baltimore. She’s reluctant to accept Jessica as her lawyer—her previous lawyer was uselessly incompetent, and she’s unimpressed by Jessica’s complete lack of experience. Jessica convinces Amina to give her a shot, but the odds are heavily stacked against asylum seekers, and Amina is painfully reticent when it comes to revealing the details of her flight from Aleppo, information necessary for Jessica to mount a successful case. Slowly, Amina discloses the horrifying truth—soldiers murdered her younger brother, attacked her mother, tortured her father, and her husband simply vanished one day—a gruesome tableau affectingly described by Klepper. Jessica tries to help not only win Amina asylum, but also find a job, and both encounter shrill prejudice that sometimes crescendos into violence. The author sensitively captures the anxiety the nation experiences regarding immigration from countries plagued by anti-Western extremism; Jessica’s husband, Danny, an educated man who works in cybersecurity, surprises her with the depths of his skepticism. Also, Klepper artfully depicts the ways even the quotidian aspects of life can be challenging for the radically displaced: When Amina is asked to provide her college transcripts as part of a job application, she tersely replies: “No. I... I do not know that I can get a transcript sent. There’s a war.”

A poignant exploration of a timely political topic. 

Pub Date: July 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948051-11-8

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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