A thoughtful novel that’s full of surprising relationship twists.

SECOND SIGHT

Debut novelist Rogers relates the life story of a spiritual Canadian woman named Anna as she struggles with relationships with men throughout her life.

The story starts many years into Anna’s marriage to Grant, with whom she’s clearly close despite some contentiousness in their relationship. In the past, Anna has fallen for boyfriends who turned out to be emotionally unavailable or unwilling to commit. In-depth flashbacks reveal that her own mother, Rosaline, settled for a man who made her miserable with his infidelity but also provided for her. After the birth of Anna’s third baby, she has a near-death experience and chooses to come back “for Grant,” feeling that “There was just enough goodness in their marriage to keep them together.” The experience also reinforces the woman’s Christian faith, which becomes intensely significant to her during moments of crisis. She forms a bond with her therapist, a man named Dr. Ess, whom she first got to know in college, and he helps her try to uncover her life’s purpose. The story follows her as she finds a kind of peace with her husband without trying to change him, writes her own story, and finds new friendships. The story takes many unexpected turns, offering Anna romantic relationships that seem sure to be “the one” but do not ultimately turn out to be. A great strength of the novel is its characterization of marriage, which is unexpected but realistic—and not the happily-ever-after that one might expect from a romantic story. The descriptions of small details of parties that Anna attends or of meaningful moments with her roommates or children are engaging. Anna’s deep attachment to Dr. Ess also comes through beautifully. However, some spans of time are offhandedly covered with phrases such as “She was seeing Grant regularly.” Overall, though, the author effectively presents Anna’s life as a series of both good and poor decisions, which makes her story highly relatable.

A thoughtful novel that’s full of surprising relationship twists.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64367-533-6

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Urlink Print & Media, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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