Foos effortlessly inserts a humanized sin-eater into the center of a complex, emotionally volatile group of families,...

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THE BLUE GIRL

In Foos' sixth novel, a mysteriously pigmented girl in a small lakeside town serves as the focal point for the unraveling of three families, as told from the perspectives of the women and their daughters who surreptitiously feed the girl moon pies.

Three mothers, Magda, Libby, and Irene, and their respective teenagers, Caroline, Rebecca, and Audrey, are marooned not just in a tourist-reliant lakeside town, but in the stasis of lives unlived: "We kept them close to us on the beach towels and watched them slather themselves in oil." The women's marriages are studies in abandonment, either of the professional variety (Libby's husband, Jeff, who absents himself in order to avoid their autistic, quasi-violent teenage son, Ethan) or the mental one (Irene's husband, Colin, who one day stopped speaking and now throws a nerf ball against the living room walls all day). Rebecca is fooling around with Magda's son, Greg, a liaison the teens think is secret but is known to all. The near-drowning of the town's so-called "Blue Girl" and her subsequent rescue by Audrey breaks the stasis of the families by giving them a fresh outlet for their pity. But how many moon pies can one girl, blue or not, eat? The blue girl never assumes a proper name but instead remains with her moniker throughout the book in order to become a fleshy catalyst for long-repressed pain. With spare prose and a keen ear for the clipped interactions of people in denial ("He slips out of the house in the morning and into the bed at night without a coffee ground in the sink or a crease in the bedspread"), Foos untangles the troublesome knot that binds the families together one kinked strand at a time.

Foos effortlessly inserts a humanized sin-eater into the center of a complex, emotionally volatile group of families, creating a work that is haunting and healing in equal measure.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-56689-399-2

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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