A fleet and eerie novel, like the last strand of dream before waking.



Drager's (The Sorrow Proper, 2015) spare, ethereal second novel is equal parts dark fairy tale, philosophical exploration of time and schema, and academic satire.

"Imagine a room full of daughters. How is it different than a room full of girls?" On the eve of her fifth birthday, the daughter of the Wrist Scholar waits for her father to make his brief middle-of-the-night visit to her bedroom to tell her stories of the Lost Daughter Collective. Lending a touch of the medieval to the ominous future Drager invokes, the girl will grow up to be known solely by her occupation, the Ice Sculptor, like her father and the men who form the Collective—The Woodsman, The Archivist, The Wainwright—whose daughters fall into one of two categories: Alices (missing) or Dorothies (dead). As the stories of the Collective members weave around those of the girl and her father, the perspective begins to shift and the timeline destabilizes, turns inside out, until it is no longer the Wrist Scholar telling stories of the Collective to his daughter but the men who will someday form the Collective telling stories of the Ice Sculptor to their not-yet-lost daughters. What was present has become past or the past and present exist simultaneously, nestle and curl into one another, until at last the daughters claim narrative dominance. Drager meditates on our means and motives for telling stories, highlighting the ways in which tenor and content shift depending on the teller. Though references to various literary figures, like Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Virginia Woolf, may be a bit on-the-nose for some readers, and occasionally a point is whacked with a heavy and earnest hammer, overall the book delivers an intelligent and densely layered story.

A fleet and eerie novel, like the last strand of dream before waking.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941088-73-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dzanc

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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