Vividly detailed, a florid fantasy that suggests the miraculous potential of hope and love in the midst of perpetual war.

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A TALE OF THE DISPOSSESSED

The fourth from Colombian Restrepo (The Dark Bride, 2002, etc.) traces an unlikely romance between a displaced man—raised in the hell of the country’s decades-long civil war—and an outsider.

The nameless narrator (presumably from the US) meets the man known as Three Sevens in the refugee shelter where she works. She is attracted to him, but he speaks only of a woman named Matilde Lina. The mysterious man, she learns, was born in 1950, in Santa Maria Bailarina, a village named after its patron saint, the Dancing Madonna. Found on the church steps, the infant had an extra toe (hence Three Sevens, after twenty-one digits), which signals something supernatural. He’s taken in by the village laundress Matilde Lina, and, after a massacre a few months later, the survivors take to the road, carrying the wooden sculpture of the Dancing Madonna with them for protection. The slow march lasts for years. “We were victims, but also executioners,” Three Sevens admits. He and his young adoptive mother are the only travelers who seem oblivious to the sufferings of hunger, fear, and cold nights. When he is 13, the two are separated during an ambush, and, putting the Madonna in his backpack, he begins a lifelong search for the only woman he has ever loved. Years later, in the oil city of Tora, he’s caught up in a riot, tear-gassed, beaten, labeled an instigator, and accused of stealing the Madonna, a valuable colonial relic. Still seeking Matilde Lina, Three Sevens finds a refugee shelter run by French nuns high in the mountains above Tora—a place on “the other side of reality.” There, the Dancing Madonna, disguised in a new mantle, is restored to dignity, and Three Sevens, after nearly fifty years, has a chance at redemption and love.

Vividly detailed, a florid fantasy that suggests the miraculous potential of hope and love in the midst of perpetual war.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-072370-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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