A spare, almost-too-sweet story that displays Pritchett’s gift for dialogue and compelling characters.

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SKY BRIDGE

First-novelist Pritchett explores definitions of love and goodness in the same eastern Colorado hardscrabble landscape of her award-winning story collection (Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, 2001).

When Libby’s younger sister, Tess, discovers she’s pregnant, Libby offers to raise the baby if Tess agrees not to abort. Twenty-two-year-old Libby secretly hopes Tess will decide she loves the baby once it’s born and abandon her plans to leave their isolated ranching community, but as soon as she graduates from high school, Tess heads off to Durango, and Libby starts raising baby Amber, helped grudgingly by her beautiful but embittered mother, Kay, a ranch-hand who left most of Tess’s rearing to Libby. Libby, a supermarket clerk, goes through her days learning how to be Amber’s mother, supported by a circle of imperfect but goodhearted friends who admire her courage. Her boyfriend, Derek, is gentle and kind but unwilling to commit to the baby, partly because he senses Libby doesn’t love him fully enough. Meanwhile, Libby’s nearest neighbor, Miguel, is raising his small son alone since his wife, Libby’s best friend, committed suicide. Miguel feels responsible for that suicide and has agreed to marry a pregnant stranger crossing the border illegally from Mexico so she can get papers. From Ed, an eccentric who’s moved to town to raise bees, Libby learns that Tess has gotten involved with the coyotes bringing in the illegals. On it goes: Libby’s boss catches her stealing beer but says everyone deserves a second chance; Kay and her rancher boss fall in love; Derek and Libby break up. Simon, Amber’s father and an active member of the Cowboy Christian Fellowship, at first wants nothing to do with his daughter. Then, spurred by his genuinely concerned parents, he briefly pursues custody until Ed, a kind of hippie fairy godfather, brings Tess and Libby together to fight for Libby’s right to keep Amber.

A spare, almost-too-sweet story that displays Pritchett’s gift for dialogue and compelling characters.

Pub Date: May 10, 2005

ISBN: 1-57131-046-0

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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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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