Tropper entertainingly examines the angst of middle-age masculinity as he looks at Silver, a man both growing up and growing...

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ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO

Drew Silver is dying in many ways: his marriage has been over for seven years, his ex-wife is getting remarried, his career as a rock drummer is long past, his 18-year-old daughter is pregnant, and he has a life-threatening heart condition. Tropper finds unexpected humor in all of these incongruous elements.

Silver has never been much of a dad or a husband, so when he finds out about his defective heart, he determines he will not have a life-saving operation. After all, what does he have to live for? He’s lived long enough to see the breakup of his band, The Bent Daisies, and his music career ended with their one-hit wonder, “Rest in Pieces.” Now he’s living his days with other losers at The Versailles, a run-down motel. To his credit, the awareness of his precarious health causes him to rethink his pathetic life, and he’s able to come up with a to-do list that includes “Be a better father. Be a better man. Fall in love. Die.” By the end of the novel he’s able to cross almost everything off. Knowing he’s going to die concentrates his mind, and even the surgeon—both coincidentally and ironically his ex-wife Denise’s fiancé—can’t persuade Silver to undergo the operation. Silver is able, albeit briefly, to reestablish intimacy with Denise, and Casey, Silver’s daughter, effects a temporary reconciliation that leads her to call her father “Dad” (which both perplexes and pleases him) instead of “Silver.” In other words, what Silver ultimately achieves is to move beyond the inscription he imagines on his tombstone: his name, the years of his birth and death, and a phrase, the acronym for which is “WTF?”

Tropper entertainingly examines the angst of middle-age masculinity as he looks at Silver, a man both growing up and growing old.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-95236-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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