A predictable tale that advances the teachings of a contemporary, post-Christian prophet.




A debut philosophical novel tells the story of a modern-day prophet.

An unnamed narrator’s car breaks down on the side of the road. A bus pulls over containing a group of people, and one of them—a man in his 30s named Billy—approaches the narrator and offers him a lift. While the narrator is initially apprehensive, he quickly becomes enamored with the leader of the travelers, Jos. A philosopher and teacher, Jos uses the daily experiences of the band as a way to discuss life’s major questions: equality, morality, fate, the law, etc. He knows a lot about Christianity, but he isn’t exactly a Christian. His worldview is more expansive and inclusive than that. The group arrives in a rundown section of a large city and founds the Church of Understanding, dedicated to aiding its neighbors and improving the area. “It is where people will learn…everything,” preaches Jos. “That is how you praise God; that is how you really worship God. It is to learn. It is to praise and worship other living things.” The church’s good work changes lives for the better, but Jos’ unorthodox views on other religions are controversial. As it turns out, prophets who challenge the status quo are no more welcome in the modern world than they were in the ancient one. Bell writes in a simple prose that deftly shifts between the sparse account of the narrator and the essayistic soliloquies of Jos. The narrator is not quite as self-assured as the authors of the Gospels, but his lucid accounts slowly create a reverential aura around Jos: “Mostly, I thought about Jos. How he saw the world. Then wondered just how he did see the world. For such an apparently simple man, he was very complex.” The sections in Jos’ own words, which make up a considerable portion of the book, are mostly disconnected from the narrative. The narrative sections mirror the life of Jesus a bit too closely to be captivating, and Jos’ message of compassionate humanism isn’t terribly original. While the premise is intriguing, Bell never takes the novel into surprising territory, which will likely leave readers less than inspired.

A predictable tale that advances the teachings of a contemporary, post-Christian prophet.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 212

Publisher: Isabell Fromme Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 11, 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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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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