A heartfelt—if at times slow-moving and overlong—picture of a family’s distress.


A semiautobiographical novel about one woman’s long struggle with her divorce and her growing children.

Hart’s debut begins with the protagonist, Kelli (also the author’s first name), arguing with her husband, Guthrie. Guthrie and Kelli have been married almost 22 years and together have six children. They live in a rural place where the scenery is dotted with horses, trucks, and plenty of disagreements. As Kelli develops a serious joint illness, her marriage deteriorates ever further. When the divorce papers are finally filed, it is merely the beginning of a long war waged in and out of court. The reader follows along over the course of the next 10-plus years as Kelli battles for the custody of her children and, as they grow into adults, simply for their love and trust. Kelli faces challenges ranging from mounting legal debts to finding a God-fearing man to be her next husband. She endures a stint in jail. All of those pale, however, in comparison to the occasional searing comments from her children such as, “This divorce is all your fault!” Nevertheless, Kelli holds on to her Christian beliefs and does her best to maintain hope in a story that progresses slowly. Readers get a wealth of information, not all of it necessary, from teachers’ reports to discussions about who is going to visit whom and when. At one point, the book describes a mundane conversation Kelli has with a daughter about her son Aaron: “You told Aaron that you would come here for Easter. Aaron says you’ve changed your mind. Is this true?” Although some of the finer points get lost in the shuffle of this long period of turmoil, events are painted realistically. Anyone who’s experienced a messy divorce can likely relate to the whirlwind of attorneys, social workers, hurt feelings, and supervised visits the book describes. The dialogue can be blunt—a son tells Kelli, “I’m glad you discipline us”—but when tragedy strikes the family, it is vivid. And it is the vividness that keeps the story alive until the very end.  

A heartfelt—if at times slow-moving and overlong—picture of a family’s distress.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69846-522-7

Page Count: 595

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2019

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


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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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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