THE ARK SAKURA

Abe's first novel in eight years—a gruff fantasy From a writer no stranger to the metaphorically weird (The Woman in the Dunes. The Box Man). Mole, the narrator, is an obese man living alone in an abandoned stone quarry that he's retrofitted into a cavernous bomb-shelter should nuclear disaster ever visit. He lives there permanently, but ventures forth on occasion to check out possible fellow survivors, people he'd possibly invite into his "ark" for the surviving haul. He's never found anyone just right; but as the book begins, he's taken in by a man selling legless dung beatles—eupcaccia—and by a pair of shills, a man and a woman, working with the insect dealer. So intrigued with the bugs, dealer, and shills is Mole that he half-offers them "tickets" to his "ship"—which, by misadventure, they surprise him by accepting. The four of them go underground, with Mole hardly secure about his trio of guests—who are happy, though, to be surviving possible Armageddon, But when Armageddon does come it's a fake, involving an absurdist-comedy toilet bowl, a stuck leg, some dynamite, a brigade of senior-citizen neat-freaks—it all becomes very loony. And either the translation is poor or Abe's style has turned flintier than ever: dialogue (which makes up much of the book) reads like that of Japanese dubbed cartoons: "Well, I still think it's worth investigating. If we look around, we might even find some wet footprints." "Nah, that ladder is too risky. It's not worth it." "You're the one who started this." "I told you—it was an excuse." Coarse, broad, almost funny—an oddly inert, completely balance-less book.

Pub Date: March 16, 1988

ISBN: 0307389634

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more