Violent rock music rendered in prose.

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DOWN TO THE DIRT

The lives and loves of tormented and booze- and drug-addled teenagers in Newfoundland are examined and revealed to be as chaotic and unpleasant as those of tormented, booze- and drug-addled teenagers in North Dakota or Belarus.

With courteous acknowledgements to a long list of Newfoundland arts-funding entities and many friends, debut novelist Hynes goes digging for his portraits of maritime provincial youngsters, concentrating on the psychic agonies of Keith Kavanagh, dropout, drunk, screwup, passable hockey player, occasional fisherman, vandal and thief. Keith was cute enough as a teen to be taken to bed by an older woman, but whose life after the subsequent seduction of Natasha, a pal’s girlfriend, spirals ever downward until he becomes a candidate for detox. Natasha seems nearly as desperately unpleasant, being an equal participant in the seduction and having nothing against serial shagging under the nose of her irritable parents. Hynes follows the duo around their economically depressed coastal milieu, breaking away at (too-infrequent) intervals to let a couple of their ex-classmates have a say. Some of the few relatively upbeat moments feature well-executed scenes hockey-rink scenes, but even those degenerate into bloody violence. (But then—it is hockey.) There is a particularly gruesome scene of what was to have been the mercy killing of a dying pet cat, an assignment that goes particularly bad for Keith. Then, as the rather violent young couple begin to drift apart, victims of their ages, Natasha’s wispy ambitions and Keith’s violent addictions, Keith runs afoul of the law and is put on probation. The unlovely couple try to set up housekeeping in St. Johns, but they haven’t got the hang of it, and Natasha strikes out for the big city, leaving Keith to self-destruct.

Violent rock music rendered in prose.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1537-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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