An imperfect but ambitious and appealing comic tale about parenthood and the financial system.


A satirical novel tells the story of a father and daughter whose blog upends the economic status quo.

Jack Sullivan, a former CEO who sold his company in order to stay home and write a book about creating a moral form of capitalism, is becoming increasingly aware of odd things around the house. Someone is replacing the toilet paper rolls incorrectly, for instance. Then he discovers the culprit in the form of a blog called “In the Doghouse: Experimentations in Social Disruption at Home,” authored by none other than his own 12-year-old daughter, Daisy Peanut. It has 34,602 followers. “There are like a thousand of those blogs out there already,” explains Daisy, when asked why she started messing with her family and putting the results on the internet. “I had to look at my surroundings and figure out what was uniquely me. And what is uniquely me is that you people are weird and I really enjoy making fun of it.” Jack and his wife, Catelyn, feel understandably violated, but when he realizes how engaged Daisy’s audience is—so much more than anyone he’s tried to talk to about the way the financial system is rigged in favor of the powerful—he sees an opportunity. It’s a great success—sort of. Daisy’s 34,602 followers quickly balloon into millions, and Jack has unintentionally created a demagogue with a reach far greater than any of them could have foreseen. Barrett’s (Managed Care, 2018) prose is clever and clear, and he manages to fit a good deal of political critique in his characters’ high jinks. Despite some really tone-deaf jokes about immigrant maids and the word “gay” (and attempts to defend such jests), the narration—and the dialogue in particular—is generally funny and engaging. While the premise is not at all realistic, the plot moves quickly, and the author finds a number of curveballs to throw at his well-drawn characters. While not the height of satire, perhaps, it is rare to find such a readable book that attempts to deal so directly with a major (and fairly complex) social issue.

An imperfect but ambitious and appealing comic tale about parenthood and the financial system.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-310-3

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019

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Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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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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