A stark, striking study of childhood abuse and recovery.




A woman recalls her traumatic, impoverished childhood growing up in Canada in the 1970s and ’80s in this debut fictionalized memoir.

Hoover begins her narrative with a note that it’s “a true story,” yet “all names are fictitious and from the author’s imagination.” Following that disclaimer, she tells the first-person tale of Lynn Hellers’ painful childhood and of her rising determination to improve her circumstances. Lynn is the eldest of four children to a couple in a low-income area of Kingston, Ontario. Her mechanic father is a physically abusive drunk; her beautiful mother has some nurturing qualities, but she’s largely cowed by her husband and overlooks or enables his behavior. She’s also often away due to her bank job, which is a critical second source of income for the family. Both Lynn and her sister are sexually abused by the criminal types who hang around the home of Lynn’s paternal grandmother, a crude Ma Barker–style woman who runs many illegal activities. Thankfully, Lynn, at least, manages to spend more of her time with her maternal grandparents, who encourage her artistic ability. Her high school boyfriend is a substance abuser, but he also provides her with emotional support. By story’s end, Lynn is accepted into a university and acquires a student apartment and a job, which leads to an art teaching career and her eventual embrace of her gay identity. Debut author Hoover offers a blend of documentary-style reportage and artistic perspective to this work. Her detailing of Lynn’s father, in particular, has the raw ring of truth, and her descriptions of several of Lynn’s personal photographs as chronological markers within the narrative are effective. Overall, it’s a compelling tale, although there are some hauntingly underdeveloped threads, such as the fate of Lynn’s siblings and her father’s surprisingly emotional response to her leaving home. Still, as Lynn herself notes several times, her focus on herself was ultimately necessary for her survival.

A stark, striking study of childhood abuse and recovery.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1460262726

Page Count: 264

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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.


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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