A brief but enjoyable historical novel.

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HONEYSUCKLE HOLIDAY

A richly detailed debut novel of a Southern girl’s 1960s childhood.

Twelve-year-old Lucy Moore tells the story of her life in Memphis, Tennessee, after her mother and two sisters relocate from Germantown. She tells tales of warmth and nostalgia—walking to the drug store for sodas, saving up coins to purchase dolls, frying an egg on the pavement to test the summer heat—but also reveals the era’s atmosphere of racism. The white Lucy isn’t merely an innocent observer, either; she antagonizes Lila, the family’s African-American housekeeper, by taunting her with hurtful, racial chants.But although Lucy can be cruel, her older sister Caroline and their newly divorced mother, Maggie, treat Lila with respect. Lucy’s father left the family on Christmas Day 1965, and when he later reappears at the house unexpectedly, on the run from the police, Lucy and Caroline are dismayed. Jacobs creates suspense by shifting back to the days right after he left the family, when generous and wealthy relatives Aunt Dodo and Uncle Herman welcomed Maggie and the children for a visit to their St. Louis home. Later, in 1966, Lucy announces that she would like to be a nun, and Maggie arranges a tour of the Sisters of Sorrows Convent, where, Lucy admits, “I began to feel true sorrow for them, rather than the awe I had felt earlier.” Throughout, Lucy struggles with both her father’s absence and the complexities of racism, which turn out to be far more connected than she realizes. Jacobs is a talented, descriptive writer who provides particularly lush descriptions of food: “The cole slaw was smooth and rich and creamy, like my red velvet skirt that I wore last Christmas, and the baked beans were served in little plastic cups, a perfect crusted top waiting to be punched with the tines of our forks.” Lucy and Caroline are well-developed characters, but many of the story’s doting and affectionate adults are too similar. The exception is Lucy’s father, whose criminal transgression is finally revealed toward the novel’s end.

A brief but enjoyable historical novel.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 95

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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