Light and life-affirming fare about letting go of worry and embracing uncertainty.

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YOU GOTTA HAVE BALLS

The further adventures of a tightly wound Manhattan businesswoman and her infuriatingly easygoing father.

Brett apparently has a strong following in her native Australia, but it may not be so for much longer if she keeps moving her characters to New York. Her heroine, Ruth Rothwax, is an Aussie woman of Polish-Jewish descent—her father is an Auschwitz survivor—now relocated to Manhattan, where she runs a thriving letter-writing and greeting-card business. In Too Many Men (2001), Ruth brought her father Edek back to Poland, where she spent the whole time fretting about why he wasn’t more upset by revisiting that den of anti-Semitism; there were times when Edek’s Auschwitz experience seemed to bother Ruth more than it did him. Now Edek has moved to New York and is working in Ruth’s office, where he quickly drives her crazy with his constant scheming and enthusiastic over-ordering of supplies. Ruth’s agitation hits stratospheric heights, though, when Zofia and Walentyna, a pair of widows whom the two had become friendly with in Poland (Zofia and Edek getting more than friendly), show up in New York to live with Edek, and get Green Cards, and in the process manage to bring out all of Ruth’s cattiest tendencies. The irony of the situation is that even as Ruth is railing against Zofia and Walentyna, she is attempting to start a womens’ discussion group the primary purpose of which is to combat such tendencies. Given that much of Brett’s narrative is a headache-inducing ride through Ruth’s encyclopedic array of neuroses—this is a woman who brings steamed vegetables in a Ziploc bag to restaurants—it’s a relief when Edek and his widows (a chaotically appealing trio) announce to Ruth that they want to open a restaurant and need just a smidge of funding. This is a faster, leaner work than Brett’s previous effort. If only the author could find her other characters as interesting as she does Ruth.

Light and life-affirming fare about letting go of worry and embracing uncertainty.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-050569-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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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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