A didactic, expositional tale about the current political divide.



In this political thriller, Tennert (A Prominent Role, 2018) tells the story of a traumatized man who believes that a powerful group is controlling America.

Justin Patterson, an Indianapolis psychiatrist, is married to Clarissa, a local politician, with whom he has two children. He and his wife have been together since college, but their differing political ideologies are beginning to drive a wedge between them. After Justin survives a mass shooting in a restaurant, Clarissa, a fervent gun rights advocate, excoriates him for not having had his gun on him. The brush with death has left him traumatized, which harms his practice and drives him to explore new political ideas. He begins to suspect that wealthy, powerful people are conspiring to control events and public perceptions for their own ends. Justin calls their system “the Armory”: “It had the ammunition to wage a ruthless war of indoctrination and abuse for an indefinite amount of time. It had the power to decide what is right and what isn’t.” Justin hires a receptionist, Lindsey Couture, who provides a sympathetic ear as his marriage to Clarissa—who’s now running for mayor of Indianapolis—continues to deteriorate. He suffers a fall in his building’s stairwell that puts him in a five-day coma; he suspects that he was pushed by a man associated with the Armory. As he attempts to challenge the system that he suspects is arrayed against him, he must also deal with the PTSD that continues to haunt him. The novel deals directly and ambitiously with the major political issues and climate of the past decade. However, Tennert’s prose style has an unnatural wordiness that feels somewhat dated, like that of 19th-century fiction: “My happiness for the political system showed signs of cracking under gradual pressure. Diverse segments and stories from numerous media outlets reported on contentious topics.” It also repetitively and distractingly refers to the aforementioned restaurant as an “eatery” 15 times. The book often reads more like a summary of a novel, with many incidents reported rather than shown. In the end, readers may be unsure how they’re supposed to feel about Justin—or even how the author feels about him.

A didactic, expositional tale about the current political divide.

Pub Date: July 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-0380-1

Page Count: 222

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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