A coming-of-age story that deftly demonstrates the potency of standing up for one’s beliefs.

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IN THOSE GLORY DAYS OF ELVIS

From the Days of Elvis series , Vol. 3

The times, they are a changin’ in Arkansas in this third installment of a series.

This volume picks up immediately after Book 2, with Julie Morgan struggling in the wake of her baby’s birth and her mother’s recent death in 1957. When Julie flees Happiness House, a home for unwed mothers, and heads to El Dorado, she leaves behind her baby and postpones any real decision about her future. Julie wants to reclaim her old life, but she physically and emotionally can’t be the same girl. She is now a young woman who not only lost her mother, but is also a mom herself. While she secretly lived in Happiness House, her half sister and look-alike, Carmen, assumed Julie’s identity in El Dorado. Now Julie must live as Carmen and adapt to high school as an outsider. Early on, Julie muses: “This deception business will take some getting used to.” Most difficult of all, Julie only has 90 days to decide whether she wants to bring her baby home and become a social pariah or forfeit her parental rights and give her son up for adoption. In addition to Julie’s personal challenges, current events are front and center in the novel. El Dorado, like the entire nation, is riveted by the forced integration of Little Rock Central High School, and racially charged discussions are unavoidable in the conservative Southern town. Rascoe Keenan’s (In Those Dazzling Days of Elvis, 2017, etc.) decision to include two African-American characters, women whom the white protagonist counts as friends, provides a desperately needed perspective for Julie and readers. This is the strongest book in The Days of Elvis series so far, as the characters are well-developed and the focus on national events gives added weight to the small-town story. The underlying thread running through the engrossing narrative is power and the struggle against judgment and oppression. When Elvis, a wise fairy godfather at this point, tells Julie, “It’s too bad the woman has to pay for the consequences of a natural thing between two people who love each other,” he gets right to the heart of this tale.

A coming-of-age story that deftly demonstrates the potency of standing up for one’s beliefs.  

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68313-173-1

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Pen-L Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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