Love and family defy the expected in this engaging tale.

CALLING ME HOME

From East Texas to Cincinnati, from present-day racism to 1930s segregation, Isabelle and Dorrie travel together, a most unlikely pair of companions, and their stories unfold.

After having been Isabelle’s hairdresser for a decade, Dorrie thinks she knows Isabelle pretty well, even though Isabelle is a 90-something white woman and she is a 30-something black woman and even though Isabelle grew up privileged and she has struggled to begin her own shop. Over time, the women have bonded over shared stories, stories about Dorrie’s divorce and Isabelle’s favorite soap operas. And over time, they have become friends. Yet, when Isabelle asks Dorrie to drive her cross-country to a funeral, Dorrie is taken aback. It’s easy enough to ask her mother to care for her children, but telling Teague, her new boyfriend, is another matter. Their relationship is still new, still tentative, and Dorrie has been burned by men too often. Once on the road, Isabelle’s most secret story comes out. Growing up in a town that persecuted blacks who dared to stay after sunset, and under the thumb of a mother watching her daughter’s every movement, Isabelle was the last young woman the people of Shalerville, Ky., might have expected to fall in love with a black man. The repercussions of their love shattered their lives, their families, their futures. Yet, their story isn't finished, and Dorrie wonders what lingers and whose funeral they are headed toward. As she puts the puzzle of Isabelle together, Dorrie has worries of her own. Can she trust Teague? Why have her son and his girlfriend stopped planning for the prom? Kibler’s unsentimental eye makes the problems faced unflinchingly by these women ring true.

Love and family defy the expected in this engaging tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-014528

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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