Evocative, compassionate, and exquisitely composed stories about the human condition.

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BABY, YOU'RE GONNA BE MINE

Ten familial short fictions from the fertile mind of Wilson (Perfect Little World, 2017, etc.).

Wilson triumphantly returns to short stories, the medium of his first book, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (2009), ruminating once more on grief, adolescence, and what it means to be a family. The opener, “Scrolling Through the Weapons,” finds a guy and his girlfriend looking after some nearly feral nieces and nephews. The tricky bond between father and son is revisited in the stark “Housewarming.” A wife and mother who returns to her childhood home after her 82-year-old mother is assaulted makes a plethora of bad decisions in “A Visit.” Grief and regret run hand in hand in “Sanders for a Night,” in which a boy wants to cosplay as his dead brother, and the title story, in which a failing rock star takes advantage of his mother’s generous nature. There’s a rare misfire in the collection-ending “The Lost Baby,” which plays out as advertised, including a puzzling, ambiguous ending. But the book’s three portraits of young people are mesmerizing. In the collection’s best story, “Wildfire Johnny,” Wilson counterintuitively explores the nature of male maturity, cloaked in a horror story about a mystical razor that allows the user to travel back in time—if they slash their own throat. In “No Joke, This Is Going to Be Painful,” a restless young woman stuck in her small town finds redemption in pain: “We called them ice fights. They made things weird for a little while.” Finally, Wilson captures the insanity of adolescence in “The Horror We Made,” in which a bunch of teenage girls jacked up on Adderall, weed, and diet pills make a horror movie during a sleepover. One true confession within: “Every time I think I might not be friends with you guys anymore…I remember that I love shit like this and no one else would do it with me.”

Evocative, compassionate, and exquisitely composed stories about the human condition.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-245052-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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