DUTY

A Navy man stumbles his way on board the USS Gays in the Military and comes away with an engaging, candid story about manhood, the ambiguities of rank, and individual conscience. Legal affairs officer Mark Palmer, idle in San Jose aboard the USS Modoc, is called to Captain Morgan Bennet’s office and presented with a letter alleging that petty officer Marion Lamm has committed a homosexual act. Bennet won’t have this sort of thing on his ship and demands an immediate court-martial. Though Palmer succeeds in lowering the charges, he’s also sure the claim is too flimsy to stand. But Palmer’s 16 years of service have put him up for a promotion that Captain Bennet can cancel as he likes, so the junior Palmer does as ordered. (Twenty-year Navy veteran Lane is clearly on familiar ground here.) None of this sits well with Lynn, Palmer’s lover and a former Navy wife, but Lynn is conflicted, too. Her ex-husband, the shadowy Tony, prevents her from getting on with her life by holding child-support payments for their daughter hostage. This doesn’t sit well with Palmer, who knows that his love for the mother and daughter is honest—unlike his enthusiasm for the case against Lamm. The trial, a deftly written, back-and-forth affair, pits Palmer against defense attorney Lt. Templemann. While Palmer never quite gives an opinion on gays in the military, he does know Lamm—persecuted by the sailors for busting up their on-board drug abuse—is innocent. Captain Bennet’s outrageous prejudice is never explored, but Palmer’s own romantic, gender, and career conflicts are fully and humanely elaborated. In resolving them, author Lane doesn’t take the easy out, and the conclusion seems probable if unexpected. An informed depiction of the “new” military, all told in Lane’s fluent voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-882593-29-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bridge Works

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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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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