Singer employs a light comic touch to this engaging second novel sure to appeal to romantics and animal lovers alike.

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STILL LIFE WITH ELEPHANT

A cheating husband, dangerous horses, a dashing philanthropist and rescued elephants converge in this charming account of a woman’s recovery from a failed marriage.

Neelie’s always been a bit out of it, but when her husband’s veterinary partner calls to tell her she’s pregnant (and that would be thanks to Neelie’s husband Matt), Neelie retreats to the emotional safety of a box of jelly donuts. She soon discovers that Matt has closed their bank accounts and put a second mortgage on their house, leaving Neelie close to destitute, her income dependent on training difficult horses and the odd riding student. To make matters worse, Matt is trying to persuade Neelie he still loves her, that the affair was just one of those big mistakes. It’s been increasingly hard to get up in the morning, until friends who run a local wildlife sanctuary offer her the opportunity of a lifetime—travel Africa and rescue an injured elephant. Neelie takes on the challenge, and Matt assists with the project as well. The sanctuary and the rescue mission are financed by Thomas Princeton Pennington, a fairly impressive millionaire, at once rugged and sophisticated, who goes on the trek to supervise. When Neelie returns from Africa, it doesn’t take long for her to fall deeply in love—first with the elephant, Margo, and her baby, then with Tom, who’s taken a shine to Neelie as well. Singer (Horseplay, 2004), a horsewoman herself, as well as a foster mother to baby elephants, uses her expertise to deftly convey the passion Neelie has for the animals in her care, and the joy this kind of shared life can bring. On the human front, Neelie has a decision to make: Take Matt back, with all the comfort and certainty that offers, or consider Tom and a childless (his one demand) life of excitement.

Singer employs a light comic touch to this engaging second novel sure to appeal to romantics and animal lovers alike.

Pub Date: July 10, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7679-2677-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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