It’s all mush, but the feminist angle may keep the fans loyal.

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THE LAKE OF DREAMS

Family secrets dominate this sluggish melodrama, a second novel that recalls the corrosive secret at the heart of Edwards’s surprise bestseller The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (2005). 

Lucy Jarrett is front and center. When she was 17, she made what she felt was a fateful decision. She harshly dismissed her father’s suggestion they go fishing on the lake; he went alone and accidentally drowned. Guilt-stricken, Lucy unceremoniously dumped her Native American boyfriend Keegan and left her hometown, the eponymous Lake of Dreams in upstate New York, to attend college out West. Then came a career as a hydrologist working for multi-nationals and a string of short-lived romances. Now, pushing 30 and unemployed, she’s living with her latest lover, the Japanese engineer Yoshi, outside Tokyo. She flies home after hearing her mother has had an accident. It’s minor, but Lucy is surrounded by change. Her mother has a new admirer; her uncle Art, who owns the family hardware store, is spearheading a contested lakeside development; and Keegan, married but separated, has a successful glassworks. How curious, then, that amid these upheavals, the jet-lagged Lucy should zero in on the past after discovering some hidden papers. She learns about her great-great-aunt Rose. Back in England in 1910, the 15-year-old had been seduced, impregnated and abandoned by the lord of the manor, that scoundrel. After traveling to America with her brother Joseph, she had been separated from her daughter after marching with suffragettes. All this Lucy learns from letters she has stolen from the Historical Society. Why Lucy should feel a life-changing connection to Rose is never clear; her problem is she’s commitment-shy, as shown by her renewed interest in Keegan (forget about Yoshi). The rush of events near the end includes the discovery of an old will, an anguished confession about her dad’s boating accident and Lucy’s trashing of the family store; being the heroine, she gets a pass. 

It’s all mush, but the feminist angle may keep the fans loyal.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02217-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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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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