A mortality-haunted medical sci-fi tale that offers a life-affirming diagnosis.

THIS'LL BE THE DAY THAT I DIE

In Griffin’s debut novel, four diverse Long Islanders learn that they’re all fated to die on Christmas Day due to a troubling medical “breakthrough.”

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a cutting-edge research lab, announces an amazing discovery that’s connected to the Human Genome Project. A gene labeled p63A can apparently predict with unerring accuracy the dates of death for a monitored group of human subjects. Eerily, even if ill health isn’t a factor, death inevitably strikes the subjects on the predicted calendar date—due to accident, suicide or even murder. The media uproar that follows comes mostly from the religious community, which accuses the scientists of trying to dethrone God. Doctors, meanwhile, are intrigued and scrutinize the phenomena further. Four Long Islanders in the study group, who seemingly have no other direct connections, all come up in test results as destined to die in exactly one year, on Dec. 25, 2013. The condemned include Dan Brannigan, a superrich stock trader with shady deals in his past, who helped fund Cold Spring Harbor; Janet, a suburban wife and worried mother of a man fighting in Afghanistan; Sharona, a 27-year-old African-American woman struggling with an unreliable ex-con boyfriend; and Father Ted, a serious-minded clergyman, wounded in mind and body because of his service in Operation Desert Storm. As scientists monitor each patient, looking for signs of a sinister pattern, the novel counts down the months and weeks to the quartet’s seemingly unavoidable fate. The story’s premise may initially recall the Final Destination horror-film series, but it quickly turns 180 degrees from the juvenile-gore route. Its overall tone is not unlike those of such popular romance tales as Danielle Steel’s Amazing Grace (2007) or Maeve Binchy’s Nights of Rain and Stars (2004); as in those books, an ensemble cast brought together by happenstance undergoes a trauma, and readers eavesdrop on how each character copes in the aftermath. The resolution, which channels metaphysics, the paranormal and biochemistry, is not only satisfying, but also has a graceful sense of science apprehending the Almighty (or the nearest equivalent) without ever getting overly mawkish or preachy. Griffin, in an afterword, states that he pondered his material for more than 20 years before writing the novel, but it rarely feels forced or overpolished.

A mortality-haunted medical sci-fi tale that offers a life-affirming diagnosis.

Pub Date: March 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1478724230

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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