Romantic fish-out-of-water debut with a feminist undertone.


Freedom takes many forms for a sheltered young Iranian woman who travels to Tucson, Ariz., in search of a new life—and a husband.

Depressed over the small and restrictive life that awaits her in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 27-year-old Tamila Soroush is stunned and grateful when her loving parents give her a one-way plane ticket to America. They send her to Arizona in the hopes that her pragmatic older sister Maryam will find the pretty former school teacher a suitable Persian husband within the three months allotted by her tourist visa. Once she arrives, Tami experiences wonder over the wide array of choices that American women take for granted, like being able to walk down the street uncovered without fear of arrest. During such a walk, on her way to an English class at the local library, she stops at a Starbucks and catches the eye of Ike, a hunky regular dude working there who is charmed by her naïve ways. She likes him too, but dismisses his advances, knowing they would interfere with her family’s plans for her. Considering romantic love a luxury she cannot afford, Tami indulges her rebellious side by photographing the everyday expressions of freedom that would be unheard of in her homeland. She also meets a series of eligible bachelors, including Haroun, a handsome engineer eager for a wife. That Haroun is also a neurotic germaphobe who insists she undergo a full medical evaluation before he proposes does trouble Tami, but she sees him as a sensible answer to her dilemma. Back at the library, she befriends a predictably lovable group of quirky immigrants, including the German sexpot Eva, courtly older Czech gentleman Josef and pregnant Russian mail-order bride Nadia—whose abusive redneck husband makes nutcase Haroun look like a great catch. With her new friends’ encouragement, Tami finds her confidence and inner strength in the face of the inevitable compromises she believes are necessary for her to fulfill her destiny. This newfound boldness leads to an 11th-hour decision that will either send her straight back to Tehran, or offer an opening for a certain smitten barrista who would do anything for his Persian Princess—if only she would ask.

Romantic fish-out-of-water debut with a feminist undertone.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2007

ISBN: 0-553-38388-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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