Intelligent, warm-hearted and tough-minded—Racculia is a talent to watch.

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THIS MUST BE THE PLACE

Accomplished and compelling debut novel examines the consequences of a teenage pregnancy.

When his adored wife Amy, a special-effects creator, is killed in a freak accident on a movie set, 32-year-old photographer Arthur realizes how little he knew about her life before they met. A memorabilia-filled shoebox on the floor of their closet sends him from Hollywood to Ruby Falls, N.Y., where Amy’s childhood best friend Mona lives with her daughter. The girls ran away together in the spring of 1993; Mona returned in August with infant Oneida and has never said who the father is. Now, Mona runs a boarding house and bakes wedding cakes, while tenth-grader Oneida is resigned to being a “freak,” too intellectual for her small-town peers—until she discovers that classmate Eugene’s badass delinquent reputation is actually a surrealist art project, based on the mantra of his father (a forger) “that your whole life is a creation…you can use [it] to totally mess with other people’s heads.” This revelation causes Oneida to fall head over heels for Eugene, just as he planned, while Mona grapples with the unsettling memories of Amy reawakened by Arthur’s appearance at the boarding house. It takes Racculia just a few vivid setup chapters to sweep us into the thoughts and feelings of her appealing principal characters: smart, prickly Oneida; sexy, funny Eugene, who’s more vulnerable than he seems; nurturing Mona, still in Amy’s shadow 15 years after their life-changing road trip; and grieving Arthur, who needs to understand that his wife’s past was darker than he realized. The truth about Oneida’s parentage will be clear to alert readers long before Mona reveals it, but plot is not the point here. The author brilliantly captures teenage angst and uncertainty as she conveys some very grown-up truths about the choices we make and the prices we—and others—pay for them.

Intelligent, warm-hearted and tough-minded—Racculia is a talent to watch.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9230-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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