Padura capably works here in Perez-Reverte territory, where art and ideas meet mayhem. Smart and satisfying though too long...

HERETICS

Cuban mysterian Padura (The Man Who Loved Dogs, 2013, etc.) returns with another installment in his Mario Conde detective series, this one following a Rembrandt portrait over centuries and continents.

Conde, as Padura’s fans know, is a former cop–turned-investigator, suspicious of everyone and everything. It turns out that, to supplement his income as all Cubans on the island must, he’s developed a sideline in the book trade—and has done pretty well for himself as a scout for one Yoyi the Pigeon, an entrepreneurial young “engineer who had never touched a screw or entered any job sites.” It’s in that guise that Conde falls in with a painter, Daniel Kaminsky, who is on the track of a missing treasure: long ago, an ancestor had come into the possession of a small Rembrandt portrait that had traveled with the family across a bitterly anti-Semitic Europe for centuries until arriving in Cuba with a shipload of refugees aboard the ill-fated Saint Louis; that painting, writes Padura, had variously been “a secret, a family heirloom, and, in the end, a jewel on which the last Kaminskys to enjoy owning it would place their greatest hopes for salvation.” Why a Jew of modest means should have been carrying a work of art by the Master in the first place turns out to be the crux of a story that Padura spins off to incorporate numerous threads—in fact, four main strands of them in four separate books that run backward, biblically, from Daniel to Genesis, and that hop from place to place: Havana, Miami, Krakow, Amsterdam. There are real heretics behind the title of Padura’s book, but the term embraces all sorts of outsiders, from Yoyi, who represents something like the fall of socialist man, to young Cuban neo-rebels (“hearing two lesbian confessions on the same day…exceeded his capacity for understanding”) and the hidden marrano Jews of the New World.

Padura capably works here in Perez-Reverte territory, where art and ideas meet mayhem. Smart and satisfying though too long by 100 pages.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-71678-3

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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