A captivating and powerfully related account of Jesus’ early years.



A debut historical novel imagines Jesus’ youthful desire for spiritual enlightenment.

As a young boy in Galilee, Yeshua is precociously interested in religious study and implacably desires to devote his life to it. And while he is obedient to the laws of his faith, he’s also disturbed by their apparent contradictions and exclusion of many from God’s protective love. His father, however, interprets his philosophical curiosity as impudence and his aspirations as fanciful fits of vanity; he is a carpenter, and Yeshua is destined to become one as well. Zoroastrian seers prophesize that Yeshua is the Messiah, a prediction that stirs the boy. But his father dismisses the claim and arranges for Yeshua to marry for the good of the whole family. Then Yeshua meets Dhiman, a Buddhist monk who tells him that in his religious tradition, anyone can become a monk regardless of the circumstances of birth, and the boy runs off with him to study. But though he learns much, he is also stymied by monastic rules and is eventually forced to leave. He finds a new guru, Kahanji, who teaches him about Krishna. Again, Yeshua deepens his spiritual practice but rejects the caste system that aristocratically elevates some over others in the eyes of God. Yeshua finally returns home to his family and begins the ministry for which he becomes famous and which is viewed by the Roman authorities as politically seditious in intent. Duarte ambitiously conjures the undocumented years of Jesus’ life, before he became a historically transformative figure. The author’s knowledge of the period is remarkably astute, and she artfully concocts a less self-possessed Jesus, still grasping for a sense of his life’s mission. She also delves into his youthful worldly longings and the romantic experiences he has before his ministry, realistically fleshing out the possible details of his mortal life. Duarte masterfully traces the evolution of Jesus’ thought and the grand synthesis of religious traditions it culminates in: “I aim to remind my brother and sisters to love God and one another. Because it’s what’s in your heart that makes you righteous or impure.”

A captivating and powerfully related account of Jesus’ early years.

Pub Date: July 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9971807-0-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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