An overstuffed tale that can’t decide if it’s a mystery or a romance.

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THE LAST ANNIVERSARY

Moriarty’s second novel follows the Doughty clan as they fight to protect family secrets.

The Doughtys became famous more than 70 years ago when Connie and Rose Doughty found a baby on their island home, Scribbly Gum. The baby’s parents, Alice and Jack Munro, vanished, leaving few clues to their whereabouts. The circumstances around the abandonment created a national media sensation. Dubbed “The Baby Munro Mystery,” the case captivated Australians and turned sleepy Scribbly Gum Island into a tourist destination. Connie and Rose jumped at this chance to make money. They offered tours and concessions based on the Munro’s disappearance. Their schemes created a financial windfall for the Doughty family. As the business grew, Connie and Rose managed to keep the younger generations of Doughtys on a tight leash by controlling the purse strings. After setting up this bleak bit of history, Moriarty focuses on the island’s current residents. The Doughty grandchildren and great-grandchildren seem to have prospered in their pristine surroundings, but in reality they are a tortured bunch. The family’s troubles surface when the matriarch, Connie, dies. Infighting breaks out among the relatives, and the careful fabric that bound the family together for years starts to unravel. The comparatively sane and notably saucy Sophie Honeywell is thrown into this den of nutcases—Sophie had only met the dowager a handful of times, when she was dating one of the Scribbly Gum natives, but apparently Sophie made such an impression that Connie bequeathed to her her home. Eager to toss aside Sydney’s stale singles scene for the opportunity to live rent-free on the picturesque island, Sophie joins the fray. Moriarty (Three Wishes, 2004) presents far too many characters (five generations are accounted for), and none of them are likable. The old ladies are cantankerous and the younger folk are addle-brained. Sub-plots involve postpartum depression, gay relationships, mid-life crises and weight-control issues.

An overstuffed tale that can’t decide if it’s a mystery or a romance.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-089068-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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