That’s a rare philosophical observation in an overwrought work that puts sensationalism ahead of vision.



Star quarterback, apostate priest, CEO, whore. They’re a motley crew with a common fate in store: humiliation.

Keating’s dark debut offers a parade of characters but no plot. They live in a postindustrial city, a dismal place where feral dogs prowl the streets. A Jesuit school is all that remains of its former glory. The richly endowed school’s attempt at urban renewal is a spanking new football stadium, but don’t expect a full-bore satire about this deal between God’s messengers and Mammon. Instead, Keating zeroes in on Frank McSweeney, the massive quarterback who will surely lead his team to victory in the game of the season, set for the Day of the Dead, right after Halloween. Doesn’t happen. At a Halloween party in a flophouse, degenerate senior Will de Vere offers Frank, already drunk and stoned, a treat: the banged-up-but-still-feisty whore, Tamar. Next day, Frank is a wreck, the game lost, the season over. His humiliation is total but not worth dwelling on; Keating has many more victims lined up. There’s the coach, forced to pay his flophouse rent by bedding his landlady, “this tusked and taloned tarn-hag.” (Hyperbole is Keating’s trademark.) There’s Will’s father, Edward, CEO and school donor, now facing bankruptcy. He’s enjoying oral sex in a cab with Tamar when the cops arrest them; the fallen titan must then service his cellmates. Father and son will both meet grisly ends. There's no protagonist in this panorama of depravity, though the school looms over the action. Its priests are sinners too (their housekeeper is also their procuress), but only one of them is punished, the apostate Father Loomis, who has married off his most pious students to a bunch of prostitutes. “Life uses us as battering rams, one person against the other, and few…escape the catastrophe,” comments the omniscient narrator, or puppet master.

That’s a rare philosophical observation in an overwrought work that puts sensationalism ahead of vision.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8041-6927-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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