THE MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN

An engrossing yarn about a man and his love of baseball.

Edward Everett Yates shows promise as a young ballplayer in the minor leagues. But can he make it to the Major Leagues? Perhaps talent is just one of the factors, although “Edward Everett” might make a marginal big leaguer at best. One day he gets to play for the Saint Louis Cardinals in a rain-soaked game. He’s having a good day until he leaps for a fly ball and changes the direction of his life in an instant. Face it, he is never going to be a Babe Ruth, but God knows he loves the game. For other young men, baseball is a phase of life, a skin they shed before going on to lives as truck drivers, salesmen or lawyers. But Edward Everett can never seem to leave the game for long, and after a brief stint as a flour salesman, he becomes manager of a single-A ball club. He is decent toward women, but his constant travel and assorted shortcomings make stable relationships tough. Nothing about his life’s arc screams “superstar,” but he is a usually considerate man whose character shows through in tough situations, like the suicide of one of his players. Throughout the novel, he tentatively tries to learn about a child—does he have a son?—who stays just barely out of his reach. Schuster paints in vivid detail the crappy ballparks and sometimes desperate wannabes who cannot admit that they should just move on from baseball. This is a terrific story that goes beyond the sport and deals with promise and aspirations, dreams and disappointments. No little boy would fantasize about being the next Edward Everett Yates, but readers will root for him. Like so many of us, he is an ordinary, flawed human being whose life is full of might-have-beens.  

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-53026-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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