Scott’s luminous prose, references to world events and hints of magical realism never quite coalesce, but Sally is a...

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Scott (Everybody Loves Somebody, 2006, etc.) follows the life journey of an impoverished farm girl who repeatedly reinvents herself as she moves from town to town in northern Pennsylvania.

In 1947, 16-year-old Sally Werner, the daughter of German immigrants, is seduced and impregnated by a cousin. Leaving behind her newborn son, she runs away and begins a new life in a small community along the Tuskee River. But when someone from home recognizes her, Sally panics. She steals cash from her kindly employer and runs further north to a new town where she calls herself Sally Angel. She falls in love with a teenager named Mole who makes her genuinely happy until local rich boy Benny carelessly runs Mole’s car off the road. Unaware of his role in Mole’s death, grief-stricken Sally has a brief affair with Benny before she senses his mean streak. She runs again although she soon realizes she is carrying Benny’s baby. As Sally Mole she finds friendship, a good job and a satisfying life with her daughter Penelope in the town of Tuskee until Benny finds her and beats her up. Correctly fearing that he’ll attempt to take her daughter away, Sally runs with Penelope to Rondo where as Sally Bliss she raises Penelope while working as a legal secretary and carrying on a romance with her married boss. Sally’s story is narrated by her granddaughter, who is also tracing her own parental history. Penelope never knew why her fiancé Abe disappeared before the narrator’s birth, although early on the narrator drops the bombshell—Abe left when Sally told him he was her long-lost son. The romantic tragedy is that Sally was mistaken. The novel begins to peter out when Abe initiates contact with the narrator to give her the facts. Abe’s story is just not as interesting as Sally’s.

Scott’s luminous prose, references to world events and hints of magical realism never quite coalesce, but Sally is a character of mythic proportions.

Pub Date: April 22, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-05165-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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