Very clever indeed: Kurt Vonnegut laced with Louis-Ferdinand Céline.



Bereft and deranged earthlings struggle to adapt to a world without divine guidance in this mordant dystopian fable, its Maine author’s abrasively funny first novel.

It begins in Darfur, whence God, hamstrung by the indecisiveness of “an implacable polytheistic bureaucracy,” has come, in the guise of a native African (Dinka) woman, to show His solidarity with embattled Sudanese refugees. The Deity’s disguised appearance elicits both emergency aid and profane insubordination from visiting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. And when the eponymous tragedy occurs, humanity comes apart at its seams in a series of variously interrelated seriocomic episodes. A hopeful high-school graduate eager to jettison her past and embrace the future instead experiences numbing depression when she observes a priest committing suicide. When the absence of God moves parents to blind adoration of their children, a weary CAPP (Child Adulation Prevention Psychologist) tries, and fails, to set misguided moms and dads straight. Directionless teens form a suicide club, and a love-struck adolescent joins the Marines to fight in a catastrophic global war that pits Postmodern Anthropologists against Evolutionary Psychologists. When an unstable young man who cannot completely shed his Christian faith commits mass murder, his innocent family are “accused” of worship. Clearly, Currie intends these spiky narratives to fray readers’ nerves, and despite a tendency to push even his most inspired premises to what’s-going-on-here extremes, they’re almost uniformly inventive and absorbing. His wired imagination works best in a monologue-“interview” with the last surviving member of the feral dog pack that feasted on the Deity’s fresh corpse, ingested some of His powers and were themselves worshipped by humans, before suffering exploitation by a megalomaniac theologian. Currie builds momentum expertly, but diffuses it somewhat with an ending that almost exactly echoes that of the popular film The Terminator.

Very clever indeed: Kurt Vonnegut laced with Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

Pub Date: July 9, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-670-03867-1

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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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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