A quick, enjoyable read that doesn’t spend too much time in the rough.

READ REVIEW

GREEN

Clark offers a novel about golf, race and friendship in roughly equal parts.

When Aloysius “Wish” Fitzgerald and Jackson Spears meet in 1969, they form an unlikely friendship. Wish is poor and black, and Jackson is rich and white. They bond over golf; Wish is obsessed with the sport, and Jackson’s overbearing father hopes his son will be able to master it. Wish works as a caddy to stay close to the game, at a time when most courses wouldn’t allow black players, due to the racism of people like Jackson’s father. Wish helps Jackson not only with his golf game, but also with his confidence. It’s a favor that Jackson repays later in life, as the narrative moves through roughly four decades of family, business and sports struggles and triumphs. Race and racism is a recurring theme, but it’s never an issue between any of the primary characters. Jackson’s father, for example, is a bit of a cartoonish bigot, but Clark doggedly avoids giving him and similar antagonists a major role in the story. Instead, they’re on the fringe as Wish pursues his dream of becoming a professional golfer. The narrative tension refreshingly comes from the characters chasing their dreams, or from their refusal to let go of their own stubborn notions. On the other hand, the story’s moral lessons are at times overly simplistic, as characters relinquish those same stubborn notions after some quick dialogue and reflection. Race is a difficult issue, but Clark handles it broadly, never letting the story get too gritty or thorny. He keeps his characters amiable and self-reliant, and although each decade presents them with challenges, their lives never seem in danger of spiraling out of control. Even so, it’s easy to root for Wish, and this fact keeps the story moving along. The golf jargon may get a bit thick for non-golfers at times, but it’s always necessary to the action and detailed enough to please golf fans.

A quick, enjoyable read that doesn’t spend too much time in the rough.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493783137

Page Count: 428

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 11, 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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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