A gritty novel that unflinchingly depicts the ravages of drug abuse.

Catch A Falling Star

From the The CASA Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A heroin addict overdoses, loses custody of her kids, and then tries to rebuild her life in this debut novel.

When she was only 15, Aleisha Turner had her first child and had no choice but to drop out of school to tend to him. She’s largely estranged from her family and has no support system, so she finds moments of escape in heroin. To finance the habit that ravages her body and mind, she works as a prostitute on the streets of downtown Toledo, Ohio. She eventually finds herself with three kids and an abusive husband. After she accidentally overdoses, the state takes her children away; the two eldest are placed in foster care, and the youngest, a baby, is taken in by Aleisha’s aunt. Aleisha is forced to enlist in a rehabilitation program, but she initially refuses to take therapy seriously; she’s overwhelmed by her hopeless worldview and has a reflexive suspicion of people who show her compassion. However, she eventually begins to make progress and clean up her life. She moves in with her older sister, Kareen Turner, and her live-in boyfriend, Leroy Jackson. But after Leroy takes a sexual interest in her, Kareen jealously throws her out, which sets her on yet another downward spiral. Meanwhile, Beverly Stone, a court-appointed special advocate, gets tasked with overseeing the care and custody of Aleisha’s children. After tragically losing her own husband in an accident, Beverly immersed herself in volunteer work and became a witness to a dark world of addiction and emotional squalor. Author Julius artfully depicts government programs that try to rescue society’s most beleaguered but inadvertently debase them at the same time. For example, when Aleisha realizes that she needs to be watched while providing a urine sample for a drug test, Julius ruefully observes the unavoidable humiliation: “Aleisha nearly said something, pointing out how demeaning the whole thing was, then realized the futility of it all. This was how the system worked so this was what needed to be done.” The prose is clear and sometimes haunting, and the story gives readers the possibility of redemption without delivering a neat, saccharine conclusion. This is a heartbreaking but authentically realistic story, told without proselytizing embellishment.

A gritty novel that unflinchingly depicts the ravages of drug abuse.

Pub Date: June 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9969607-2-4

Page Count: 314

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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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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