In Canty’s fiction (Into the Great Wide Open, 1996; A Stranger in This World, 1994), the irrational has a way of winning out. His tough, resilient, often bitter characters know better, but at life’s turning points they surrender almost inevitably to the yearning for self-destruction. This is the case again here. Set mostly in a small Montana town, an economic backwater haunted by the ghosts of the old, supposedly free West, the story follows the downward spiral of Marvin Deernose, a bright, sardonic Native American who allows himself to be caught up in the tormented interactions of a wealthy white family. Everything begins when Marvin, on a bitterly cold morning, stumbles on an accident and saves an old man’s life. The man, Senator Henry Neihart, survives the accident, thanks to Marvin, only to discover that he’s mortally ill. Justine, his deeply troubled granddaughter, comes home, ostensibly to tend him. In fact, though, she’s fleeing horrors of her own: her four-year-old son has been killed in an automobile accident, for which she holds her husband responsible. Already damaged, Justine is drawn by her son’s death to the edge of insanity. It’s a tribute to the power of Canty’s deterministic vision that, even though it seems inevitable that the angry, desperate Justine and the despairing, self-aware Marvin (struggling to control his appetite for booze and drugs) will meet and begin an affair, their collision is still striking. Canty also portrays’shrewdly—the anger the affair rouses in Marvin’s town. And the outcome of Justine and Marvin’s coupling, while unsurprising, has real power. Canty is, in fact, one of the most deterministic of American novelists since Frank Norris: in his world, things are almost always skewed by our wayward desires. Yet his convictions don—t get in the way of a full and moving depiction of character. A sad, gripping novel, driven by a harsh and distinctive vision of life. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-49160-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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