Morris writes brilliantly in short, spasmodic chapters, but her vision borders on despair.

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YOUNG GOD

A bleak novel of poverty and drugs in rural North Carolina, reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor but without a redemptive vision.

At the center of the action is 13-year-old Nikki, whose mother dies at the beginning of the novel. This leads Nikki back to her father, Coy Hawkins, recently released from prison and, not coincidentally, formerly the biggest coke dealer in the county. Coy has taken up with Angel, a bleached-blonde teenager who dresses in high heels and see-through outfits; he pimps her out in cheap hotel rooms to earn money for his next big score. High on his list of resentments is another pimp, who, the month before, had tried to wrest Angel away, but Coy is able to track down his rival and slice and dice his face. If we need further evidence of Coy’s vileness, we get it when Nikki introduces him to Renee, another adolescent whose virginity should bring a high price. But Coy rapes her, shoots her and, with Nikki’s help, cuts up her body and leaves her where animals will find her. The Next Big Thing for Coy is black heroin, which he’s convinced will make him rich. Nikki is far more afraid of being discovered by the Department of Social Services than of being mistreated by her father, so she develops her own drug business and shows herself more than equal to her egregious and slimy father. It is indeed rare to find such entrepreneurial spirit in a slightly post-pubescent teen.

Morris writes brilliantly in short, spasmodic chapters, but her vision borders on despair.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-53423-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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