Soap opera, but a pretty good one, with a feel for the era (the ’70s), and a nicely satisfying end.



A debut novel by poet Bialosky (Wanting a Child, 1998) about a young woman’s attempt to come to terms with her unhappy childhood.

Anna Crane is going to be married. That’s enough to make anyone wistful, but Anna has another reason to be jittery: The wedding will be in her hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where she hasn’t set foot since she basically ran away from home decades ago. A middle child, Anna was the second daughter of Lilly and Lawrence Crane, a happy Russian-Jewish couple from Cleveland. Lawrence was a builder who made good money during the housing boom of the 1950s and settled his family in a beautiful home far removed from the grit of midwestern city life—but died suddenly in 1961 while changing a light bulb. Lilly’s grief knew no bounds: Not only had she lost her husband, she found herself thrown on the mercy of in-laws who considered her beneath Lawrence in the first place. With no intention of working, Lilly began cultivating men the way gardeners do plants, finally marrying the rich but unpleasant (and gentile) Max McCarthy. Anna puts up with her mother’s flirtatious ways better than her older sister Ruthie—who goes to live with her aunt after her mother remarries—but that’s partly because Anna feels she has more to learn than her sister. For some time, after all, the teenaged Anna has been obsessing over Austin Cooper, a hapless but handsome classmate who has dropped out of school to work as a stablehand. An ignoramus and a gambler, Austin is the wrong man for Anna, but she falls for him in the hopeless style of the young and becomes pregnant. Meanwhile, Lilly, who has been telling Anna what she must do to “win” Austin, seems to be taking an interest in him herself.

Soap opera, but a pretty good one, with a feel for the era (the ’70s), and a nicely satisfying end.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-15-100685-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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