An imaginative, if sometimes tedious, look at the great beyond.



A supernatural novel focuses on the peculiarities of life after death.

Bruno (Pensacola Reset, 2014) presents Fiona Campbell, a protagonist who in the opening pages of this extensive story is dead. But readers need not panic, because Fiona’s adventure is just beginning. She continues to exist in a nontraditional afterlife. There is no heaven or hell and Fiona can traverse the earthly plane. The major change is that her body is gone and now she is an AtCon, short for atomic configuration. Fiona can speak to other AtCons telepathically and she can even create a holographic image of herself. Soon she comes into contact with an AtCon named Jonas Smith. Jonas is a slave who died in the 1800s and he has used his time as an AtCon to do everything from completing university courses to attending professional baseball games. Fiona meets other AtCons (who are able to form into groups called Pods) and, although being dead doesn’t seem quite so bad, a number of questions arise. Shouldn’t there be more AtCons around? Can the AtCons exploit their abilities for good? Although Fiona initially uses her new existence to confront a difficult past, her mission eventually becomes a matter of facing the future. All in all, the tale offers a creative take on the afterlife. Could it be that a number of invisible souls are congregating in the stands to watch major league baseball games? It is something to ponder, though much of the dialogue is not quite so thought-provoking. Characters, whether alive or dead, tend to say obvious things, as when Jonas compliments Fiona by communicating telepathically: “You have a phenomenal ability to analyze information and come to logical conclusions.” But while the text can be clogged with Pod meetings to discuss the AtCons’ next moves (boring meetings, it seems, continue beyond the grave), the book delivers a refreshing exploration of the possibilities in the hereafter. Now that Fiona is dead, she can do just about whatever she pleases. What will she achieve with such a privilege?

An imaginative, if sometimes tedious, look at the great beyond.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5233-0341-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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