A stripped-down novella about a man’s last sailing trip with his terminally ill brother. The narrator, who sounds an awful lot like the author—he’s a middle-aged lawyer named Joe with three children who’s had some success with crime novels that bear a certain resemblance to Felony Murder (1995) and Shoot the Moon (1997)—begins with a foreword claiming that the story he’s about to tell is true, based on the sea log he kept 15 years ago when he joined his younger brother Jack, 39, on a trip aboard the 36-foot sloop Sea Legs to distant Walker Island. Despite his inexperience as a sailor, Joe welcomes Jack’s invitation as a sign that he’s turning away from thoughts of the unspecified fatal disease he’s been diagnosed with to more constructive celebrations of life. And the two men begin their 1500-mile cruise across the Atlantic celebrating with all the calculated midlife abandon of John Cassavettes heroes. They hug each other, they revisit the scenes of their shared youth, they share banalities about first love, they sail through a wicked storm, they enjoy the chance to reverse their typical roles, with Jack playing captain and his older brother the first mate. As Joe says, however, “I’m a great believer in omens,” and his presentation throughout is so weightily metaphoric that few readers will share his surprise when Jack tells him that there is no Walker Island; the spot is just the arbitrary latitude and longitude Jack’s picked to slip off the sloop, leaving Joe to sail back home alone. Frantic to talk his brother out of his plan, and convinced that his legal training and his closeness to his brother make him the ideal person for the job, Joe tries every argument he can think of. In the manner of a seagoing ‘Night, Brother, Jack has unsurprising answers for every one. Though the treatment is more sincere than arresting, most readers will know on their own whether they want to hear the two brothers play out an argument that usually goes on inside one person.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-18563-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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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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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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