The folksy and always entertaining Nordan (The Sharpshooter Blues, 1995, etc.) returns with his latest wild ride of the imagination, this time drawing his knee-slapping laughs from the disparity between a 12-year-old boy's point of view and the adult events he witnesses one volatile summer in rural Mississippi. The summer lightning storms that strike throughout the novel not only throw everything into a new light, but also seem to inspire some down-home madness. Odd sexual doings and outpourings of desire and need are particularly amusing when seen through the eyes of Leroy Dearman, an awkward boy given to inappropriate outbursts and off-the-wall commentary. He lives on a llama farm with his parents and two younger sisters. His dad, Swami Don, crippled in one arm since youth, is otherwise solid and phlegmatic, a teetotaling, God-fearing farmer and night watchman. Leroy's mother, Elsie, though, a romantic, is easily charmed by the arrival of Don's younger brother, Harris, a flashy, handsome, heavy- drinking, trash-talking smoothy just separated from his wife for his infidelities. His cocktail hour repartee and knowledge of the greater world seduce the bored and lonely Elsie, who misunderstands Harris's compulsive flirtations. While his parents act out their domestic drama, the young Leroy discovers some harsh truths about sexuality himself, first from his uncle's stash of skin mags, then from his crush on a buxom, baton-twirling high-school girl who actually fulfills his wildest fantasy. With the household in disarray and the llamas threatened by a pack of wild dogs—Swami Don rises to the occasion. A long, wild rant reveals his true passions—for love, llamas, lightning, and family. His romantic soul reminds his wife that ``true love lasts forever.'' Hardly sentimental, Nordan's idiosyncratic fiction delights in its ragged edges—the tall tales, the wacky set pieces, the flat- out bizarre behavior. (First serial to Harper's; author tour)

Pub Date: May 23, 1997

ISBN: 1-56512-084-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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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 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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