With wry humor and profound sensitivity, Walsh (Fractals, 2013) takes what is mundane and transforms it into something...

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VERTIGO

Less a collection of linked short stories—though it is that, too—than a cinematic montage, a collection of photographs, or a series of sketches, Walsh's book would be dreamlike if it weren’t so deliciously sharp.

At an oyster restaurant looking over the French sea, a women contemplates the likelihood that her husband is currently having an affair. “Where my husband is, it is not lunchtime yet,” she says. “If my husband sleeps with the woman he will do so in the evening. As he has not yet done so, as he has not yet even begun to travel to the city where she lives, to which he is obliged to travel for work whether he sleeps with her or no, and as I am here in the oyster restaurant at lunchtime in another country, there is nothing I can do to prevent this.” This is Walsh at her best, towing the line between an equation and a poem. The rest of the stories are equally precise. “Vertigo” is a snapshot of the family's holiday among ruins (“predicated on spending as little as possible”). In “In the Children’s Ward,” the woman waits for news from a nurse with kissing kittens printed on her apron. For the woman—for women in general, perhaps—Walsh’s vision of domestic life requires an identity in constant flux. With the witty and unsettling “Young Mothers,” Walsh presents motherhood as a kind of regression: “Pregnant, we already wore dresses for massive 2 year olds.” In “Online,” the woman finds her husband’s digital affairs and tries on his lovers' personas. “What do you like for breakfast?” she asks him, not untheatrically—the difference between her and the lovers is that she already knows the answer. (“That is where the women online have the advantage,” she observes.)

With wry humor and profound sensitivity, Walsh (Fractals, 2013) takes what is mundane and transforms it into something otherworldly with sentences that can make your heart stop. A feat of language.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9897607-5-1

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Dorothy

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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