Here's a surprise—a cheerful, funny, wonderfully charming account of a spirited one-eyed boy's misadventurous journey through Texas, Oklahoma, and other landscapes of the American Dream in the 50's, in company with a band of endearing Norman Rock-well crooks and cranks, by the co-anchor of The McNeil/Lehrer News Hour and author of one other long-ago novel (Viva Max!, 1966). The narrator, who calls himself "the One-Eyed Mack," is a Kansas State Trooper's son whose lifelong dream—to be a Trooper like his father—is cut down by Jimmy T's bad aim in a game of kick the can; so Mack invents a new dream, to become a pirate, and hops the 1:22 Santa Fe doodlebug to Texas, where he meets—and tells the first lie of his life ("telling the truth was part of my training to be a man of the law") to protect—a ticketless "quick-move shortstop type" con man named Tom Bell Pepper Bowen, youngest son of the Texas "Bad Bowens." From this point on, as Mack and Pepper scrabble through the tiny towns of the Southwest, rescuing eccentrics, burglarizing bus stations and hijacking buses to carry their adoptive misfits to obscure destinations, Mack exerts a beneficent influence on Pepper with his pirate's code: to live outside the law one must be honest. So it happens that when Pepper is arrested for past crimes in Adabel, Oklahoma, at the instigation of a sweet, wildly charismatic Holy Road preacher named Brother Walt, he chooses the Marines and Korea over jail, and Mack takes over Pepper's new dream: to become lieutenant governor of Oklahoma. Mack is the lighter side of Huckleberry Finn—in a novel that is heartwarming and delightful.

Pub Date: May 16, 1988

ISBN: 1571780599

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1988

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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 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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