A well-plotted, lyrical novel filled with the harsh emotions of a family torn apart by death.

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THE THINGS WE SAVE

In Zienty’s debut novel, a family struggles through loss and painful history, exploring the things that haunt us and help us remember, everything from artifacts to junk to treasures.

Claire Sokol is a mother drawn back to her hometown of Chicago to help her father sort through her grandmother’s belongings after her death. During the process, she finds artifacts that recall the memory of the boys that haunt her—her brother, Joey, and her cousin, Jamie. A museum curator, Claire knows the significance of relics—she saves photographs, vinyl records, a lock of hair in an old Marshall Fields box, a treasure trove of memories buried in a drawer. Aaron, Claire’s lover and the father of her daughter, Tally—a family unit to which Claire just can’t seem to fully commit—is an archeologist who says of artifacts and memories, “The questions are always the same: why is it there and what does it signify?” Zienty excavates a family story, carefully uncovering why Claire feels such anger toward her father, how Claire lost her brother and cousin, the latter having become her close comrade after Joey’s death, and why Claire feels guilt over her one-time admiration for Aunt Peach, Jamie’s captivating mother, in the face of her own mother’s death. The novel lyrically works at the tension between the need to save and the need to forget, coming to the realization that sometimes you need to do both in order to move on and try to forgive. Zienty clears away the layers of dust and grime with a steady hand, leaving the raw surface of emotion signified by belongings no longer buried and memories no longer forgotten.

A well-plotted, lyrical novel filled with the harsh emotions of a family torn apart by death.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463696245

Page Count: 393

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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