Profoundly imaginative, strikingly original, deeply moving.

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KIND ONE

The dark, silent, forbidding Ohio River flows like a line of moral demarcation in Hunt’s (The Exquisite, 2006, etc.) latest literary foray.

Hunt’s story arises from the rough edges of mid-19th-century civilization, before and after the great Civil War. It follows a young girl, Ginny, in a tragic odyssey from Indiana to Kentucky and home again. Full of pride and promises—"struck it rich as a king in trade and now was going to let the land care for him"—widower Linus Lancaster journeyed north to Indiana to marry a cousin he had long fancied. He assumed her widowed, with rumors of her husband dead in a far-off war. But the husband was only wounded, left with a wooden foot and a cane. The cousin had a daughter, Ginny, and as young girls do, Ginny flirted, and Linus’ attentions turned her way. There is a marriage, and the couple treks into Kentucky, where the boastful talk and sweet promises end, not with a fine home, all columns, gables and a 50-foot porch, but instead, at a rough cabin with extra rooms tacked on, a place where Ginny, only 14, must care for Linus’ daughters, 10 and 12. Opening with a prologue in the form of an extraordinarily beautiful meditation on loss, Hunt’s writing deepens into allegory, symbolism and metaphor, all while spinning forth a dark tale of abuse, incest and corruption reminiscent of Faulkner, a circuitous tale in which pigs continually darken the narrative, right to the point where the brutal Linus is killed with a "pig sticker," and Ginny becomes captive within a shadowy, ambiguous gothic-tinged maelstrom of revenge. Blood, race and slavery thread through the story, until Ginny returns across the river again to Indiana where she lives out her life as Scary Sue, working as a housekeeper for another widower, turning away more than once from love and reconciliation in pursuit of a redemption only she understands and desires.

Profoundly imaginative, strikingly original, deeply moving. 

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-56689-311-4

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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