Repetitive as Chloe’s romantic experiences are, they still manage to entertain.

CLICK DATE REPEAT

Fate leads to love in this realistic novel of a young woman’s adventures dating online.

Twenty-five-year-old Chloe Thompson, a first-grade teacher in Milwaukee, decides to look for love on the Internet. It’s 2003, and her newly engaged co-worker met her fiance online, so how bad can it be? If Chloe’s first date is a litmus test of the online dating pool, the answer is painfully bad. She plans to meet Scott at an Applebee’s, only to have him show up late, order chicken fingers like a child and reveal that the handsome photo of him on his profile was his senior portrait. When her ex-boyfriend Cliff calls her, she can’t resist letting him come over. She continues clicking on men’s profiles, answering icebreakers, calling strangers: There’s a firefighter who wants phone sex, an enthusiastic Packers fan, and a racist student-teacher who says he knew there was something “chinky” about her. Meanwhile, Chloe’s friends and family—from her brisk Taiwanese mother to her upstanding friend Shelly and wild Jess—offer a mix of skepticism and encouragement. Chloe is charmed when she meets Drew, a nerdy guy who sends her photos of himself in the mail to prove that his scanner is truly broken. He cooks her dinner; he’s good at Scrabble; then he reveals that he kind of has a girlfriend. The news confuses Chloe, who is struggling to avoid Cliff’s troubling advances. When Drew meets Chloe’s friends, the mix of alcohol and drama is unfitting, and Chloe’s friends convince her Drew isn’t as normal as he may seem. She’s able to move on, though, via a stream of other guys met online. On a date with Frank, Chloe bumps into her engaged co-worker, who has startling news about her now ex-fiance. Cliff’s behavior continues to frighten Chloe, leading to a final confrontation that makes everything clear for both of them. Just when Chloe thinks she’s had enough of personal ads and screen names, the advice of a psychic leads her to what could be her best match yet. Anyone who’s been on a first date will find something to sympathize with in the litany of Chloe’s experiences, from the funny to the hopeful. It’s the pain of letting go of Cliff, and all that she learns in watching her friends and family go through their own trials, that makes Chloe truly relatable. The book is thankfully not bogged down by pages of pining for the perfect soul mate. It can, however, be a bit dull reading scene after scene of Chloe and her young friends drinking to excess (several chapters open on a hung-over Chloe in her bed). The novel’s dedication page features a photo of the author’s husband—whom she met online, proving to readers that online dating can indeed lead to happily ever after.

Repetitive as Chloe’s romantic experiences are, they still manage to entertain.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499656572

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2014

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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