While a summary of Canty’s novel reads like a soap opera, his deft handling of complicated love relationships and...



Canty (Where the Money Went, 2009, etc.) continues to hone his skills in creating nuanced and complex love relationships.

The narrative begins with RL and June’s annual ritual of going down to the river and drinking Johnnie Walker Red to celebrate the birthday of Taylor, RL’s friend and June’s husband, who died 11 years earlier. June, a hospice worker, is about ready to move on and find a new direction for her life, while RL, who owns an outdoors shop, is still not sure what shape his life is in. He’s divorced and has one child, 19-year-old Layla. She’s both a college student and an outdoorswoman, and is finding herself dissatisfied with her current love interest, Daniel, eight years her senior, a graduate student and would-be poet who’s serially unfaithful. More to her liking is Edgar, who works for RL and is an artist manqué. Edgar has a wife and daughter—and another on the way—but he and Layla become seriously involved, and Layla finds herself pregnant with his child. Even these relationships become more convoluted when Betsy, RL’s girlfriend from way back when, needs lodging when she goes in to a local hospital for chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Both cynical and lost, RL takes up with Betsy again and finds himself pulled into a love relationship that involves him at a deeper level than he’d anticipated. Amid the drinking and futility emerge some hints of hope. At the end Edgar has an epiphany arising from the evanescence of a cloud, “a ragged cloud of white against the dark spring sky, a bit of vapor, of nothing, and yet he recognized it: the start of something.” Other characters are able to tap into this same assurance.

While a summary of Canty’s novel reads like a soap opera, his deft handling of complicated love relationships and self-anguish raises the narrative to a more exalted level.

Pub Date: July 6, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-53330-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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