A rigorous, if bloated, tale about race and honor in World War II.

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THE LAST JUMP

A NOVEL OF WORLD WAR II

A journalist doggedly attempts to unravel a mystery about his father’s wartime service in this novel.

John Patrick “J.P.” Kilroy Jr. is a political columnist for the Washington Times who is estranged from his father, Johnny. When he’s called on to receive the Medal of Honor on Johnny’s behalf, Kilroy didn’t even know that he was dead. Reluctant to collect the award, Kilroy eventually relents. At the White House ceremony, he meets four men who served with his father in World War II: Schuyler Johnson, Harley Tidrick, Frank West, and Lincoln Abraham. Abraham is also getting a medal, one of seven African-Americans who served in World War II to be so decorated and the only living recipient. Kilroy is regaled by all four of his father’s old friends about Johnny’s service as an elite Army paratrooper. The columnist learns about Johnny’s best friend of the same name, called Jake to distinguish between the two. Kilroy soon becomes suspicious the crew is harboring a secret regarding his father, an impression all of the men eventually confirm. Nevertheless, they made a pact to never disclose the truth, compelling Kilroy to pursue the matter. Meanwhile, he begins a torrid romance with Cynthia Powers, a representative from the Army’s Public Affairs Office. Nevola (Revenge of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, 2011) spent four years researching this novel, and his scrupulously punctilious efforts show—his mastery of the historical material is astounding. The author is particularly adept at explaining the complex race relations that characterized the military at the time, wrought with prejudice and segregation. In a memorable exchange with Kilroy, Abraham complains bitterly that some German prisoners of war were treated with more respect than African-American soldiers. But Nevola buries readers under a mountain of minutiae and overdeveloped subplots, which is why the book needlessly registers at more than 500 pages. In addition, its tone can be cantankerously didactic: Schuyler grouses too hyperbolically about the decline of America. Still, the story’s denouement is spectacularly creative, justifying the author’s dawdle getting there.

A rigorous, if bloated, tale about race and honor in World War II.

Pub Date: July 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4327-5665-9

Page Count: 530

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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