An ambitious interpretation of an intriguing figure that should appeal to historical-fiction enthusiasts.

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THE MIND OF AN AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY

A novel that details the life of American revolutionary Robert Morris, from his humble beginnings to his triumphant rise and eventual ruin.

As the story opens, Morris, a wealthy merchant and a recently elected member of the Continental Congress, spends a cold winter’s night at the City Tavern in 1776 Philadelphia, discussing politics with the barmaid, Betsey. The tavern is a gathering place for the “prominent” and the “ordinary” alike to share opinions, emotions, and ideas. Morris is no stranger to so-called ordinary life, growing up uneducated in Liverpool, England, without a mother. He shares his revolutionary ideologies with Betsey just as passionately as he does with Maj. Wilhelm von Lowenstein, a doctor in the Hessian Mercenary Army, sent to the Colonies to study the “unseen battle scars” inflicted on the minds of soldiers. As the narrative progresses, Foyt (Time to Retire, 2013, etc.) explores and develops Morris’ character through these conversations, embellishing on his grand economic plans to expand his sea-merchant trading business and his hopes of freedom from the English crown. Unfortunately, as Morris’ arrogance and hunger for wealth and power grow, his impending demise becomes apparent. Foyt has written this thoroughly researched novel with great attention to detail, bringing dusty history to life with down-to-earth tales of the everyday experiences of the American Revolution, and he offers plenty of settings that will be familiar to aficionados of the era. Rather than telling a war story with tired tropes of battlefield heroism and gore, the author instead examines the inner workings of Morris’ psyche through imagined but historically rich dialogue, and he effectively shows how passion, power, and an obsession with the idea of revolution drive the Founding Father to a point of irreversible greed. As a result, watching his downfall becomes just as engrossing as his impressive rise to success—if not more so.

An ambitious interpretation of an intriguing figure that should appeal to historical-fiction enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941713-23-5

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Andrew Benzie Books

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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