A propulsive action tale augmented with worthwhile character development.

NO TURNING BACK

A debut novel offers a prison thriller leavened with Christian philosophy.

At the heart of this tale is Livvy Fischer. Poor Livvy, a young Christian and an opera singer, is finally coming to terms with the suicide of her stalker, Wade. Since Wade immolated himself in front of her at a recital, she hasn't been able to sing publicly again. But she has resumed working at a local coffee shop, where she has become infatuated with a cute customer, Lucas. When Lucas finds out Livvy sings, he invites her to participate in his church’s Christmas program. Livvy attends a meeting about the event and discovers that Lucas is actually a pastor at the church. She also allows herself to be talked into taking part in an outreach program at San Quentin prison to spend more time with Lucas: “Three hours round-trip with Lucas—that was part of the deal. The compensation.” This proves to be an unfortunate choice, as a riot breaks out right after the church singers and a prison devotional group gather in San Quentin’s chapel. Livvy is soon on the run with Tobin, a born-again prisoner who is trying to keep her safe from Gant, a serial killer whose victims are petite blondes like her. And Lucas is the prisoner of Gant, who is trying to beat information about Livvy out of him. Throughout the narrative, Vorreiter has the Christian characters, such as Lucas, drawing solace from the Word of God: “Lord, I know that you are in charge even though it doesn’t look like it. Please give me wisdom and courage. Shelter us, protect us.” Still the Christian philosophy doesn’t distract from the fast-paced plot. The author turns San Quentin into a character, graphically changing it into a foreboding setting for the civilians stranded there. She challenges the concept of who is a good guy and who a bad guy, as some of the prisoners aid the church group members caught inside. Vorreiter has created characters that readers should care about, regardless of their backgrounds. She transforms a prison into a place where Livvy, Tobin, Lucas, and others are born again, learning better ways to cope with their lives.

A propulsive action tale augmented with worthwhile character development.

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9985253-0-3

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Cross & Dot Editorial and Publishing Services

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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