A barren highway with few diverting pit stops.



Southern belle wronged by duplicitous husband seeks revenge.

Speak softly and carry a large diamond seems to be the motto of narrator Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware. Known as Frede (pronounced Freddy) to her fellow Junior Leaguers, this lady-of-leisure’s special gift is her ability to put together a stunning ensemble for any event. A bigger challenge than matching shoes to handbags, though, is tossed Frede’s way when her husband steals her money and marries another woman. Our desperate heroine seeks assistance from her loudmouthed neighbor, an ill-bred but tenacious lawyer who’s willing to take the case for free. Of course, there’s a catch. In return for his help, Frede must secure a spot in the local Junior League for the lawyer’s tacky wife, Nikki, who turns out to be an old school chum. Back in high school, Frede had ditched Nikki because she wore the wrong clothes and came from a poor family. Now it’s the Junior Leaguer’s turn to feel what it’s like to be ostracized and penniless. Primary among the story’s many problems is Frede’s selfishness and unlikable nature, expressed in antiseptic language that leaves readers cold. Some may put the book aside before imperious Frede is given the chance to atone; the author simply waits too long to start her protagonist down the path toward redemption. Lee does provide a few intriguing ancillary characters among the wacky League ladies, but that’s about it for the plus side. The prose is stilted, and Frede’s habit of tossing in freshman-year French is annoying, though not as bad as her tiresome affectation of spelling out words Leaguers find vulgar (“m-o-n-e-y”). Numbered lists of character motivations match the plot in their obviousness. Lee, who’s churned out more than a dozen mass-market romances, seems to have run out of fresh ideas.

A barren highway with few diverting pit stops.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-35495-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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.


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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