Dispassionately explores how various Eastern disciplines can intersect and overlap.

MY NAME IS MAHATAA

In the first decades of the 20th century, an Okinawan girl learns what she needs to fulfill her destiny as a High Born One and become a Bodhisattva.

Sankey’s debut novel appears to be the middle volume of a projected trilogy. This volume takes place from 1902 to 1917 in a small village in the north of Okinawa, where Mahataa is born into a family that is financially poor but spiritually rich. At her birth, she makes an extraordinary cry that signals her high spiritual destiny; however, she must be trained carefully to fulfill it. Mahataa learns her family lore from her great-grandmother Hanaa, who is a shamanic storyteller, and is trained in meditation and tai chi by an old Taoist monk; in her native religion by the spirit of the Noro, or High Priestess, who possesses a local woman to transmit her knowledge; in prophecy and the use of the I Ching by the Yuta, or local soothsayer (a role that, at that time, was outlawed by the Japanese government); and in herbal medicine and acupuncture by the Yabuu, or medicine woman. Meanwhile, her best friend, a boy named En, is on his own spiritual path, which includes an episode of disappearance into another world under the influence of a mysterious scroll that Hanaa had left in Mahataa’s care. This is, essentially, a didactic book, presenting the essence of everything that Mahataa learns as she learns it; it’s something of a drawback for a novel when the main character’s life path is to detach herself from the kind of emotional drama that constitutes the basis of traditional Western plots. One cannot help but suspect that the first volume, in which Mahataa, in a previous life, commits the kinds of karmic sins that she has overcome in intervening lives, and the final one, in which she uses what she learns here in a later life, will be more exciting.

Dispassionately explores how various Eastern disciplines can intersect and overlap.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461168799

Page Count: 306

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2014

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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