A history buff’s guilty pleasure, offering a behind-the-scenes peek into the world of a man whose impact on society lasts to...

J. P.

A historical novel that paints an intimate portrait of J.P. Morgan, U.S. banker, financier and philanthropist.

A seasoned author, Mooers (Pillar of Stories, 2013) delves into the personal life of a giant in the financial world. The novel is framed around Morgan as an elderly man reminiscing on his life, his memories serving as the vehicle by which readers come to understand how his experiences shaped him. Sensitive and vulnerable aren’t feelings often associated with this shrewd businessman, yet Mooers reminds readers that Morgan was pierced with mortal longings and pain just like everyone else—from never receiving enough affection from his father to losing a close friend and later a great love to consumption. His sentimentality even permeated his penchant for collecting art: Many years after losing his love, Amelia, Morgan discovered a painting that reminded him of her; he purchased it, hung it over his mantle and never told his wife why, only saying once to someone while looking at it, “Art is the closest thing we have in our world to the eternal.” In addition to his personal losses, Morgan struggled with acne rosacea rhinophyma, a disfiguring condition that haunted him into old age. Despite all this, he was immensely successful, and it is clear his touch on modern life was profound. He helped finance Thomas Edison’s “light” project and was at the forefront of the great industrial consolidations of his time, merging large steel and iron businesses. Mooers weaves this tale together by alternating among the present and various points in Morgan’s past—an engaging storytelling technique, but Mooers jumps time periods with abandon, making some transitions bumpy and others altogether jarring. He also adds a few too many details, stretching out scenes longer than necessary, and although he attempts to reveal a new side to Morgan, Mooers ultimately glosses over the banker’s generally gruff manner and the controversy that surrounded him, particularly how he used his power to manipulate the financial system for personal gain. Still, this novel offers a waltz with history and gives readers the seductive sense of being let in on Morgan’s private, intimate recollections.

A history buff’s guilty pleasure, offering a behind-the-scenes peek into the world of a man whose impact on society lasts to this day.

Pub Date: March 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988648647

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Riverrun

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

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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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