A soapy portrait of pre-economic-crisis Manhattan.



A half-dozen fathers in the fashionable environs of Tribeca circa 2008 struggle with regret, ambition, family and secrets on their way to the playground.

They’re a not-so-diverse group, the guys who populate the first novel by memoirist/journalist Greenfeld (Boy Alone, 2009, etc.). Thrown together by geography, a group of dads commiserate over breakfast, survey their peers for advice and bicker like little old ladies much of the time. They’re so universal, in fact, that each chapter identifies each man not by name, but by address. 113 North Moore is the Asian-American sound mixologist who studies his daughters like they’re a foreign species. 65 Hudson is the secretive husband who’s having an affair with another member’s wife. 47 Lispenard is the artist whose “punk puppetry” is now old hat in fast-moving Tribeca. “The hurt was three-fold: the art, the money, the girl,” he muses. 57 Warren Street is really the only anomaly in the interconnected stories, starring Rankin, a Jewish gangster who finds his comrades tiresome but serves a vital purpose in their lives. “For most of the men, Rankin also served as the living embodiment of warning,” Greenfeld writes. “Of whom you never want to turn to. Of a desperation you hope you will never feel.”  While the stories are well-composed, the novel is often disjointed, and some characters are so bland as to be nearly unnoticeable—the film producer who frets about neighborhood pedophiles, the playwright whose success the others find unfathomable. And others are oh-so-naughties, as is the case with the story of 85 West Broadway, the memoirist with an autistic son whose flashy stories about Japan and his own drug addiction turn out to be fabrications. It’s pretty evident that Greenfeld is mining his life experiences for fiction, but that doesn’t give them the ring of truth. It could be challenging for readers to drum up sympathy for wealthy young men with rich world problems.

A soapy portrait of pre-economic-crisis Manhattan.

Pub Date: July 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-213239-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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