An offbeat, honest take on romance that offers cringes and laughs in equal supply.

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THE D WORD

FIRST CAME ABC THEN CAME D.

Warrington tells the story of a memorably mismatched couple in her debut novel.

Clifford is 54, newly divorced and stretched beyond his financial means. He has a body that’s failing him and an elderly mother who insists that he murdered his infant brother more than 40 years ago. Meanwhile, Gina has two children from her abusive first marriage and a third from an affair, as well as plenty of regrets, a dearth of confidence, and a desire to find love again. When the two meet online, they find an immediate affinity—although perhaps it’s a warning sign that Gina is attracted to Clifford’s frank negativity. At first, it seems as if the two may form a perfect partnership, as they commiserate over how life seems to delight in tormenting people. But when the chaos of their respective lives begins to butt in, their personal flaws make for a difficult love affair. They must decide whether a relationship is actually possible and, if so, if it’s really worth the effort. Clifford is delightfully repugnant: selfish, reactionary, angry, and self-pitying. He’s an addition to the pantheon of somehow-lovable, angry, middle-aged British men in literature. Gina is more sympathetic, yet she possesses her own rich collection of shortcomings that make her a vigorous character. The couple’s vitality gives the novel a human center, which makes the plot feel effortless and organic. Warrington’s prose is as sharp and unadorned as her characters, and it’s laden with the wry cynicism of someone who isn’t interested in peddling romantic fantasies. Much of the book’s humor comes from the delight it takes in humbling its characters (“His body was a bendy metal coathanger performing a very poor job of supporting his weighty clothing”). Although the ending isn’t a complete surprise, there’s still something quite satisfying in it. Overall, this is the story of a modern, dysfunctional, second-chance sort of love—the kind that people don’t necessarily expect or desire. It may, however, be just the sort of love that has the most to teach people about dignity, charity, compassion, and trust.

An offbeat, honest take on romance that offers cringes and laughs in equal supply.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502778901

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 22, 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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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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