A gentle page-turner, as they say.

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THE SPIRIT OF COVINGTON

The sixtysomething ladies of Covington (From the Heart of Covington, 2002, etc.) are a tad older in this fourth in the series, but still good friends as new challenges threaten to undermine their spirit.

When a summer fire destroys the farmhouse that the three ladies—Grace, Amelia, and Hannah—renovated as a home for themselves after leaving the dreary boardinghouse in Pennsylvania, they learn that rebuilding will be only one of many decisions facing them. All three lost treasured possessions in the fire and must also find temporary housing while they decide what to do. Amelia and Grace move into Bob’s condominium, and Hannah, with daughter Laura, who has been living with the ladies, moves to another family-owned one. Amelia is the most affected, as the fire reminds her of her painful past: the death of her young daughter and the accident that killed her husband and badly scarred her. But the ladies, especially Hannah and Grace, are (no surprise) indomitable, and they begin right away to plan a new house that will incorporate some old features (porches to sit on) and some new (more bathrooms). They find the money, and the building starts, but as the house nears completion their friendship is tested by challenging new developments. Laura plans to marry co-worker Hank but may abort the baby she’s carrying, an idea that distresses Hannah, though she’s delighted about Hank; Amelia, though affected by an encounter with a terminally ill-child, begins to take photographs again; and Grace, whose companion Bob wants her to marry him, is under pressure not to move back once the house is complete. When Bob suffers a heart attack, Grace decides, though she misses her independence, that she can’t leave him. Amelia, feeling better since she saw a psychiatrist, and Hannah, who’s received an unexpected marriage proposal, move into the new home, but it’s not the same without Grace. Will life ever be as good again on Cove Road?

A gentle page-turner, as they say.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-7036-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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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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