A charming, readable tale about a resilient woman’s search for her family—both regular and supernatural.

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THE ECLIPSE DANCER

A Midwesterner recalls her semienchanted childhood.

This latest novel from Koerber (I Once Was Lost but Now I’m Found, 2017) tells the complicated family history of a 65-year-old woman named Andy. She lives in sleepy Allenburg, Iowa, “a small market town in the Midwest, surrounded by puppy mills, factory farms, and meth labs. And cornfields. Lots of gravel roads and lots of cornfields.” Andy looks back on her life growing up in this quiet, peaceful backwater, living with her brother, Danny, and her caustic, bitter mother, Cindy (her father, scorned by Cindy, left long ago). Andy and her mother enjoy chain-smoking and trading barbs. When she’s 13, Andy meets her “fairy godmother,” Alana, and, intriguingly, the label in the girl’s reminiscences seems as much literal as figurative. Alana introduces Andy to the world of Algonquin folklore, which she eagerly absorbs: “She wanted to understand the words of the oldest jiibay, or fairies, from back before they learned Native words and long before they started speaking English.” Andy’s memories move forward in time to encompass her mother’s failing health and her own relationship with her daughter, Bridget. Koerber balances her narrative’s relaxed and direct pacing with frequent, evocative descriptions of the seasonal beauty of the Midwest, which Andy always remembers warmly: “The grass in the yard was silvery, the trees a strange dense black flecked with the starlight that reflected off the leaves. She felt the night air wrap itself around her, heavy as a wool blanket.” The tale progresses naturally through Andy’s memories as she recalls encountering more clues as to the nature and whereabouts of her missing father. The author smoothly works in light fantasy elements, touching on the fairy kingdom that’s always adjacent to the real world. “Aunty” Alana tells Andy stories about that jiibay realm and its ways. The resulting gentle mix of small-town life and glamorous fairies is ultimately enchanting.

A charming, readable tale about a resilient woman’s search for her family—both regular and supernatural.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946044-40-2

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Who Chains You Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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