Aims low, but hits the mark precisely. Hugh Grant should watch the mail for this romantic comedy. It’s probably already on...

TUNNEL VISION

Newcomer Lowe emerges from the underneath England with a longish, lightish story of a man’s one-day journey across London by subway.

Andy is a Tube buff. He really likes it. But he can’t tell you why. Nor can he explain it to his fiancée Rachel. But, still, Andy buddies around with the likes of Rolf, a Tube freak more troglodyte than man. On the night before Andy’s wedding in Paris, Rolf tricks Andy into a bet: Can he do the whole Tube system in a set number of hours? And can he do it with most of his belongings and, yes, his very marriage on the line? He bloody well can! A bet’s a bet, so when Andy wakes up in the morning after the drunk that got him into this mess, all he can do is abandon his fiancée, pray she understands, and set off on his journey. And, joined almost at once by homeless Tube-denizen Brian, a journey it becomes. You wouldn’t think two men trying to catch trains could be much fun, but the story becomes the source of not a little tension. The men encounter derailments, suicides, stunning Italian beauties who may be spies from Rolf, and naked men. Whoa—the Tube is fun after all! Some of the underground details almost make you wish this had been done as nonfiction, but Andy’s not a bad guy, Rachel’s got a perfect body that is referred to many times, and Brian just keeps getting more interesting. Buried in this almost 400-page book is a perfectly reasonable 200-page travel story of friendship and modern quests.

Aims low, but hits the mark precisely. Hugh Grant should watch the mail for this romantic comedy. It’s probably already on its way.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2001

ISBN: 0-7434-2352-6

Page Count: 370

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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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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