Not exactly effortlessly readable, but a skillful treatment of its unusual and tricky subject.



The international sex trade becomes the unlikely source of an ironic metamorphosis in the prizewinning Spanish newspaper columnist and author’s 2003 novel (his first in English translation).

Its narrator, 22-year-od Moisés Froissard, abandons an unfulfilling life in Seville and the uncomfortable embrace of his troubled parents, accepting a job as a “scout” for Club Olympus. Portraying itself as a humanitarian relief organization that “rescues” Third World emigrants and refugees from poverty and homelessness, the Club is—as Moisés’s boss, Carmen T. (aka “the Doctor”), explains—a clearinghouse for beautiful women and men, employed as “models” servicing wealthy clients. Moisés warms to his task, forming volatile relationships with gorgeous Albanian model-turned-scout Ludmila, Mauritanian beauty Irène and succulent boytoy Emilio (who introduces Moisés to same-sex pleasures). Sent with Ludmila from the Club’s Barcelona headquarters to the southern Spanish city of Malaga, Moisés endures tropical heat mingled with the overpowering stench of uncollected garbage, while venturing into dangerous streets in search of “the Nubian”—a perfect male specimen coveted for business (and perhaps other) purposes by the sexually avaricious Doctor. The narrative dawdles for too many pages as Moisés considers the logistics and morality of the career that seems to have chosen him. But Bonilla picks up the pace when a tip sends Moisés and Ludmila to an “extreme fighting” arena where the Nubian (a refugee from civil and religious strife in his native Sudan) attracts dumbstruck adoration for his sculpted body and smoldering demeanor, and dominates his sport as an emotionlessly efficient killing machine. The scouts fulfill their mission, but Moisés reaps what he has sown, with a vengeance, and, as the story moves with increasing swiftness toward its conclusion, experiences a change of mind and heart that is simultaneously his humbling and his delayed maturity.

Not exactly effortlessly readable, but a skillful treatment of its unusual and tricky subject.

Pub Date: July 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-8050-7781-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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