Though its narrative focus can at times feel almost claustrophobic, this novel's terrific sense of place, haunting character...

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LET'S NO ONE GET HURT

A fascinating story of a teenage girl squatting with her father and dealing with the aftershocks of familial trauma in the rural South.

Some stories seem to be on a path to an unpleasant resolution from the beginning. Such is the case with Pineda’s (Apology, 2017, etc.) new novel: narrator Pearl is a teenager living in an abandoned boathouse with her father, a former college professor, and two friends of the family after her father lost his job and their family crumbled. Some legacies of Pearl's old life remain, including an elderly dog named after the acclaimed poet Marianne Moore. The dog’s failing health, and the need to euthanize her, is the note on which the book opens, and it provides a running theme across its pages, a reminder of the fragility and impermanence of life. Early on in the novel, Pearl meets a young man she dubs “Main Boy,” a boorish child of privilege who traverses the landscape with a gang of friends—a group that Pearl refers to as “the flies.” Main Boy turns out to be the son of the man who owns the land on which Pearl and her makeshift family are squatting; that his behavior toward her is predatory is further evidence that things will not end well. Pearl periodically flashes back to a time when her mother was still present, and the family dynamics there have their own unnerving moments. Pineda has a great ear for dialogue and the ability to sustain an ominous mood; it all contributes to a solid sense of place and the impermanence thereof.

Though its narrative focus can at times feel almost claustrophobic, this novel's terrific sense of place, haunting character dynamics, and assured narrative voice make it memorable.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-18524-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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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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