Stark and deeply effecting.

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NORTHWEST CORNER

In this sequel, 12 years have passed since the fatal hit-and-run at the center of Schwartz’s Reservation Road (1998), and the focus turns from the father of the victim to the perpetrator of that crime and his long-estranged, now-grown son.

Former lawyer Dwight Arno served 30 months in prison for fleeing the scene after the car he was driving struck and killed his son Sam’s second-grade classmate. Dwight is building a tentative new life in California managing a sporting-goods store and dating Penny, a literature professor. He has had no contact with Sam for years. So he’s unprepared and a little thrilled when Sam, a college senior and varsity baseball star, suddenly shows up at his doorstop. Dwight feels he has been given a second chance at fatherhood, however strained the peace between them remains. Then Sam’s mother Ruth, who had already divorced Dwight before the accident and has recently left her second husband after a brush with breast cancer, informs Dwight why Sam has fled to California: He badly injured another boy in a bar fight, the boy is in critical condition, the university has expelled Sam and criminal charges may be brought. Ruth is fiercely protective of Sam. Soon she arrives to take him home to Connecticut. Dwight follows. Sam, horrified by his own capacity for violence and deeply confused, turns for support to Emma, the surviving sister of the boy Dwight killed; although their parents know nothing of their long-term relationship, the two understand each other’s pain. Ruth and Dwight struggle to find a common ground, while Penny realizes that learning the truth about Dwight’s past does not stop her feelings for him. Schwartz (The Commoner, 2008, etc.) uses a minimalist approach. The tone of the brief chapters is matter-of-fact, sometimes harsh. The characters, Sam and Dwight especially, are damaged souls capable of damaging others. But readers will grow to care deeply about whether and how their lives can be redeemed.

Stark and deeply effecting.

Pub Date: July 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-679-60511-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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