An often engaging but overly introspective story of life and love across three generations.



In her debut novel, Robeson (English/Los Angeles Valley Coll.) describes a Greek-American woman’s search for personal and romantic fulfillment.

When she was a young girl, Thair Mylopoulos-Wright’s mother told her that humans were once conjoined to their perfect complement. But ever since Zeus separated us into two, she said, we’re all destined to search for our other half. Now, in her early 30s, Thair has a startling realization that she and her partner, while complacently happy, aren’t truly in love. This insight launches several years of soul-searching as she grapples with issues of compatibility and contentment. Her subsequent relationships challenge her assumptions and teach her about her own desires; a particular source of confusion comes from an emerging awareness that she’s not solely attracted to men. She seeks answers by transcribing her family’s history—writing short stories about her grandmother’s upbringing in Egypt and later life in Greece, and her mother’s transition from the Mediterranean to America—and these bittersweet recollections provide some of the most noteworthy material in the novel. Thair feels a strong connection to the Greek island of Kythnos, where she spent childhood summers with her grandmother; the peaceful, picturesque island serves as a contrast to her life as a busy Californian professor and offers a vivid backdrop for her reflections. Robeson makes her protagonist’s existential fretfulness about her future, and her feelings of uncertainty as she pursues a perfect romantic match, highly relatable. However, the novel spends too much time dwelling on narrator Thair’s internal struggles, and not enough time on external action to capture readers’ attention. When Thair explains that she’s “hoping my stories can entertain, maybe even help, but, mostly, my desire to write has always been to understand,” it feels as if this is the novel’s mission, as well—to untangle the main character’s thoughts concerning relationships, while giving secondary consideration to plot and pacing. Still, it’s likely that Thair’s narrative will resonate with readers who are confronting their own unpredictable futures. For others, however, her journey will seem pleasant but not revolutionary.

An often engaging but overly introspective story of life and love across three generations.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-565-0

Page Count: 376

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 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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