A reasoned, pensive, and sometimes-tragic tale that yearns for tolerance.

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METROSEXUAL

A Philadelphia lawyer struggling with his sexuality and relationships befriends a mailroom clerk in this novel.

On the surface, Charles Hamilton appears to lead a fairly comfortable life with a bright future. After graduating from law school in the late 1970s, he easily secures a job in asset management at a brokerage house and is living with a British-born woman 10 years his senior named Carol Melbourne. Charles is young and attractive but has some mannerisms that lead many people to wonder if he is gay. Even Carol’s mother, the prim Edith Larue, laments: “What chance did Carol have? Some of these homosexuals can actually hypnotize a woman.” As the story jumps back and forth between the ’70s and the ’90s, Charles’ struggles are shown to be quite complex as more and more layers are revealed. He regularly visits a psychiatrist to work out his feelings about his sexuality and his partners, including those that result from Carol’s addiction to pills. Interspersed are scenes with Jimmy Zelroué, a gay, deaf mailroom clerk at the brokerage, whom Charles is intrigued by. They live in a decidedly anti-gay world where snap judgments and bigoted insults are the norm and the old-school ways of Philadelphia’s hardscrabble neighborhoods present an almost inescapable hazard. As the nation reels from the fallout of the savings and loan crisis, Charles turns to a hacker named Shirley Azalea to help him rescue someone he cares for. Nicholas (Black Mamba, 2016) has a superb ear for dialogue, easily writing about a time period when homophobic suspicion was loudly broadcast, whether in the financial world, academia, or working-class havens. While Charles is looking to connect, others whine and judge, terrified of a perceived homosexual threat. The novel’s many characters and their backstories are carefully portrayed, including several dynamic female characters, such as hacking pioneer Shirley. The author describes her operation’s technicalities as skillfully as he depicts the legal and financial issues that arise in the narrative. But the digressive structure of the book can make it unclear what year it is, and some extraneous characters and minor plot points play too big of a role.

A reasoned, pensive, and sometimes-tragic tale that yearns for tolerance.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Copperthwaite

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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