People from several generations of one woman’s family gain vividly individual presence, recounting their lives in the...



This resonant novel is told in a multitude of voices, forming a family saga that is both a revisionist history of Latter-day Saint settlement in the American West and a personal journey.

Anderson draws upon her own heritage for this sweeping story. It begins with a long chapter narrated by a woman in her 50s, a mother and professor who cannot fathom where her life goes next: “I want my mostly-grown kids to get on with their own lovely ludicrous lives and leave me to salvage mine.…I no longer know who to be.” In search of herself, she leaves “Whitepeople Central, Utah,” for a small Arizona town where an aunt who died in infancy is buried. There she has the first of several intense visions of her ancestors, revelations of their lives that form the novel’s subsequent chapters. As the book’s genealogy chart shows, Anderson will lead readers through two centuries and half a dozen generations of a family that eventually joined the Latter-day Saint migration to the West. Their lives are filled with great hardship and loss, foolhardiness and danger—at one point, grown men leave an 8-year-old boy to guard cattle on a mountaintop amid lethal raids by the Shoshone—and moments of wonder and love. Anderson does not shy away from the often bloodstained relationship between the Latter-day Saints and the Indigenous tribes they displaced or the religion’s other forms of bigotry. She strips the romanticism from traditional notions of how the West was won: “I’ve spent a lot of time, post-Emersonian that I am, trying to figure out why it is that living in beautiful scenery so often turns human beings into violent fanatics. It’s not what Wordsworth predicted, or Thoreau or Whitman or Brigham Young. Hawthorne maybe.” In powerful prose, she lets a chorus of voices tell their own often surprising, sometimes heartbreaking stories.

People from several generations of one woman’s family gain vividly individual presence, recounting their lives in the American West as it moves from wilderness to modernity.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948814-03-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Torrey House Press

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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