An often engaging romance, but one that lulls rather than ignites.

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EVER SO NEAR

Westfield’s debut novel centers on a woman’s nostalgic recollection of love.

The story opens with a teenage Georgie and her friends enjoying their final glory days in Fort Wayne, Indiana, before heading off the college in 1958, as told by an adult Georgie many years later. The young woman dreams of a career in Hollywood but resigns herself to attending Indiana University to please her mother instead. She’s madly in love with her childhood friend, Tony, and she’s excited to room with her best pal, Sandy, in college. Her life is simple, acceptable, and seemingly complete. However, when Sandy can’t attend university due to an unexpected pregnancy, Georgie must embark on her new adventure by herself. Tony struggles with what he sees as his calling as a Catholic priest, putting their marriage plans in jeopardy, while Georgie tries to find her way among the conflicting demands of those she loves. Westfield offers a rich, vivid setting in Georgie’s hometown by the lake, establishing the closeness of a simple place with genuine people—one that’s always there as Georgie’s fallback, no matter what happens. In college, the sheltered girl learns about suicide, heartbreak, racism, sexuality, and the complexities of friends-turned-lovers. Along the way, she strives to find out who she is, what she wants, and how those things relate to the people who love her. When her career dreams finally come true, she’s faced with an impossible choice—a repeat of one that her mother had to make many years ago. The full circle of Georgie’s life shows that even as things change with new generations, so much of what’s rooted in humanity stays the same. Overall, this is a gentle coming-of-age story that only peripherally touches upon the hard lessons of life, resulting in a peaceful conclusion for almost all the characters. Even in Georgie’s darkest moments, Westfield paints with light strokes, keeping the story somewhat distant from the depths of real human emotion. Instead, Georgie’s evolution as a character is linear, and her final choice is so different from her passionate desires that the ending feels somewhat safe and uninspired.

An often engaging romance, but one that lulls rather than ignites.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1458213891

Page Count: 256

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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