A brave and bold novel about radical self-acceptance and living in the face of trauma.



Chronic pain takes center stage in this funny, moving meditation on coming to terms with your body's limitations.

Norwegian transplant Laura must find her way in New York City as a newly single mother with an unpredictable and vulnerable body. "For years, I've considered it an established fact that the female body is a pain in the ass," she deadpans in the novel's opening line. "The male body seems like a sunny campsite in comparison." In her mid-20s, Laura was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful condition that left many of her internal organs scarred and fused together despite numerous treatments and corrective surgeries. Now, at 36, she must also navigate a recent divorce, single parenthood, and dating women and men in a body that won't always cooperate. When Kjetil, the loving Norwegian ex Laura abandoned to move to the U.S. and pursue a writing degree, suddenly immigrates to the city, Laura is yet again confronted with the particular pains of her past. Havelin's debut moves backward in time, from the chaos of contemporary New York to the thrill of coming-of-age in a body that still feels full of promise. As a young girl in Norway, Laura struggled with chronic stomach pain and severe allergies that derailed her interest in figure skating, alienated her from her parents and friends, and eventually disrupted her ability to work, love, and feel productive. "It's crystal clear to me that no one wants to hear about it," thinks Laura, "but I will never finish needing to tell how much it hurt, how much it hurts, how bad it is." It's unusual to encounter such open and bold writing about pain as well as the attendant fear, resentment, and stress that burden someone who needs care and treatment. Havelin's novel is unsparing in this regard, showing how deeply Laura struggles with the psychological burdens of having a body with a mind of its own and how hard she works to get free. She's a caustic, wry, and tender heroine who will make you root for her even in her darkest moments.

A brave and bold novel about radical self-acceptance and living in the face of trauma.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948-34005-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dottir Press

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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