A propulsively written, harrowing story, as desperate as it is timely.

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IT WOULD BE NIGHT IN CARACAS

Former Venezuelan journalist Sainz Borgo's fictional debut shows a woman caught in the violent disintegration of her city and homeland at a time of acute personal loss.

Adelaida Falcón's beloved mother has just died of cancer, leaving her alone in the world, and Caracas is going to the dogs. "Everything was disappearing as fast as my mother faded....Everything was ending: our life, our money, our strength. Even the days were now abbreviated. Being in the street at six in the evening was asking to cut your life short." Through a haze of grief, Adelaida watches protesters clashing with the Sons of the Revolution in the streets below. ("Bastards of the Revolution," she thinks.) The air reeks of tear gas and pepper spray. The story alternates between the violent, increasingly desperate present and a happier time when Caracas drew people from all over the globe. ("I was born and raised in a country that took in men and women from other lands. Tailors, bakers, builders, plumbers, shopkeepers, traders.") She remembers visits to an Italian shopkeeper, vacations in the countryside with her mother, songs sung by women hulling maize by hand. Now Venezuelan paper money is worthless, foreign currency outlawed, and rationing so severe that sanitary napkins are "more valuable than toilet paper." Adelaida returns from a failed attempt to buy bread to find she can't open her door. A menacing crew of women black marketeers has taken possession of her apartment. The ringleader, wearing her mother's favorite blouse, laughs when she threatens to call the authorities. Adelaida's subsequent attempts to find safety involve, among other things, a corpse that needs to be disposed of, a friend's brother who was kidnapped by the Sons of the Revolution and is now in hiding, and a brazen, high-stakes gamble with a stolen identity. Sainz Borgo renders the psychological and emotional toll of government collapse with both nuance and authority, thrusting the reader into Adelaida's struggle for existence and the stark choices before her. "We found ourselves wishing ill on the innocent and the executioner alike. We were incapable of differentiating between them."

A propulsively written, harrowing story, as desperate as it is timely.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-293686-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperVia/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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