ARMAGEDDON

With his customary command of fact, and predilection for the times and places that try man's metal, Leon Uris here turns to the subject and story of postwar Berlin in the early stages of occupation. His story is in essence a commemoration of the patriotism of heroes who held the line in a thankless, demanding ordeal as they fought the first Cold War battles against the Communists for the West's foothold in Berlin. Uris starts his book as the war is ending; his Irish American hero Sean O'Sullivan is an officer under General Andrew Jackson Hansen and is preparing for the occupation of Germany, first in England, then on a pilot project in Rombaden. Then comes the real thing, the major task: Berlin. With his two brothers killed by the Germans, Sean battles a great hate which is almost eradicated by his love for Ernestine Falkenstein, the niece of the anti-Nazi German patriot who has returned from a concentration camp to lead his people under the four power occupation as Oberburgermeister of Berlin. But in the end Sean must walk away. The canvas is covered with numerous figures: the Amis who renounce plush, well paying jobs at home to fight the good fight; the Russians of varied stripe from the fanatic Azov to the human Igor Karlovy who sees his German mistress to safety in West Berlin but will not follow for love of his country, to Heinrich Hirsch, who defects out of conscience; the Germans, ranged from resurgent Nazis and Germans broken to Communism to the patriot Falkenstein. Uris carries his story through the Blockade and airlift to 1949, its success and the premise of continued occupation by the West. It is in a sense a story without a definite end, and as Sean fades out, so too will the novel which is strong on background and moments of contact but has little cumulative power. This will attract Uris' established audience but not add to it. A Literary Guild selection.

Pub Date: June 15, 1964

ISBN: 0552083895

Page Count: 602

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1964

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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