THE REINDEER HUNTERS

Wolf doesn't quite fill the shoes of Jean Auel here, nor does her third prehistoric romance (after The Horsemasters, 1993) strike off in many new directions of its own. At the end of the Pleistocene era, the ``Allerîd'' (a global warming trend) poses a challenge for tribes living on reindeer meat and other game as temperatures rise, glaciers shrink, and the vast herds of reindeer migrate, leaving the people of Europe competing for dwindling food supplies. The tribes in the foothills of the Pyrenees are lucky; reindeer are still plentiful in their area. As traders spread the word, hungry reindeer hunters migrate to make this land their own. The Norakamo and Kindred tribes, both indigenous to the area and both Horsemasters (as opposed to horse eaters), cement their strategic relationship by marrying Nardo, son of the Kindred chief, to fair Alane, daughter of the Norakamo leader. Blonde Alane is a distant cousin to Auel's blonde Ayla- -apparently even at the dawn of history blondes had more fun— though not so big and adventurous (no riding on cave lions). When she goes to live with her husband's tribe, she highlights the differences between her patriarchal people and the matriarchal, Mother-worshipping Kindred. Her attempts at getting Nardo to spend more nights at home threaten her mother-in-law, who fears that the Mother Blood is in danger. In creating a matriarchal society, Wolf shows women a different way of perceiving themselves and their potential importance in society. She also invents new words (``da'' for ``yes,'' ``na'' for ``no,'' the all-purpose exclamation ``dhu'') and provides the usual stilted ``primitive'' language: ``Alane tried to raise her knee so that she could get him in a place where it would hurt.'' Wolf's anthropological fantasy is always interesting, but it gets weighted down in plot and explanation. A horse and reindeer show that never hits its stride. (Literary Guild selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 1994

ISBN: 0-525-93848-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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