Stark delineation of childhood’s treacherous terrain.

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EVERY VISIBLE THING

A family reels when an angelic son vanishes, in Carey’s heartfelt fourth novel.

In less capable hands, the story of a family torn apart by a runaway teenager, especially one who returns as a guardian angel, could turn mawkish. Hugh Furey is 15 when he goes missing after attempting to visit his ex-girlfriend in rehab. Hugh had been making the ’80s punk scene in Harvard Square instead of attending high school. His father, a professor of theology at Boston College, suspends work on a groundbreaking angels treatise to oversee the search for Hugh. His wife takes to her bed and turns over housekeeping and childcare for five-year-old Owen to their young daughter Lena. Five years later, Hugh is still missing. Dad has lost his post and is now an editor for a religious publisher. Mom is in med school. A mutual attraction binds Owen, now ten, to classmate Danny, who initiates sexual exploration, happened upon by Danny’s mother. Now a pariah at school due to Danny’s defensive queer-baiting, Owen malingers, missing weeks of fifth grade. Secluded in his room, he indulges his obsession with gravestone rubbings and angels—he recalls being rescued from electrocution by an angelicized Hugh. Tenth-grader Lena, talented, like Hugh, in photography, develops rolls of 35mm film shot by Hugh depicting his Harvard Square friends. She’s determined to follow the trail her parents have seemingly abandoned. Disguising herself as a spiky-haired, combat-booted boy, she goes in search of drug-dealer Lionel, a regular in Hugh’s photos. Enticed into the Ecstasy-popping and pot-smoking world of Sebastian, a conduit to Lionel, she reckons the cost, to Owen and herself, of her parents’ shell-shocked obliviousness. After transgressing the gender divide, virtually channeling Hugh and losing her virginity, Lena thinks she has found the key to Hugh’s disappearance. Alternating between Owen’s and Lena’s points of view, Carey (Love in the Asylum, 2004, etc.) details the Fureys’ disintegration and tentative steps toward rapprochement.

Stark delineation of childhood’s treacherous terrain.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-621289-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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