A novel that offers new flourishes on a spiritual mainstay but stumbles over its own attempts at ambiguity.

The Mythology, the Metal and the Hourglass

A reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve that provides a complex, harrowing vision of two characters’ struggles.

Alphason and his helper, Evere, frolic naked in a garden paradise. Alphason spends his time naming each creature he comes upon, as commanded of him by his creator, The Word. Meanwhile, the Tree of Life sustains them, creating new wonders from fallen fruit. The Word’s only condition is that they never eat from the Tree of Knowledge. As expected, however, a serpent appears (in this case, a limbed reptile), which entices them to sample the tree’s fruit, and soon their world tumbles into entropy. Later, the lizard returns, now as a fiery-haired conqueror called The Werd, who enslaves both of them. The Werd’s amnesiac followers soon join them: white-robed people called “fallen sand,” who have also betrayed The Word. The Werd eventually introduces lies to the world, as flaming swords crash to the earth and great white birds and a vicious leviathan threaten The Word’s forsaken children. Their only ally is The Ghost, a gigantic dog who watches and protects them from afar, and who provides particular comfort when Alphason is separated from his true love. Hammock’s debut isn’t a by-the-numbers retelling of the Abrahamic creation narrative; instead, it employs a nonlinear structure that first introduces readers to the lonely Alphason after his fall, as he inhabits a wasteland of snow with The Ghost. Overall, the novel’s lyrical prose style adds greatly to its parable-like tone. However, as the narrative moves chronologically backward and forward, it never settles into a straightforward retelling, and its sometimes vague manner of introducing characters may cause confusion. At times, unclear language (“The dog had left his stars and path behind and went to another place as did whoever was responsible for the footprints”) also muddles the story. Much of this tale is left ambiguous, as in its source material; however, the clear, direct biblical parallels become more difficult to discern after Alphason and Evere’s paradise is spoiled. This usefully distances the work from its better-known inspiration, but it also eliminates many familiar touchstones.

A novel that offers new flourishes on a spiritual mainstay but stumbles over its own attempts at ambiguity.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-312-46816-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 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...


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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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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