An ingenious and winsome novel.

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TIME AFTER TIME

Grunwald’s latest is a quirky ghost story set in Grand Central Station.

Joe is a Grand Central leverman, the railway equivalent of an air traffic controller. It is 1937, and Joe, 32, is crossing the Main Concourse when he first encounters Nora. She is coatless although it is winter. Her dress is antiquated and somewhat shabby, particularly for someone who says she lives in the tony Turtle Bay Gardens neighborhood. Flashbacks reveal that Nora, a 23-year-old art student, had just returned from Paris when she was fatally injured in a subway accident. On Dec. 5, 1925, at 7:05 a.m., she died, lying in a pool of sunlight among other crash victims on the marble floor of the Main Concourse. She has been reappearing sporadically since her death—but only on Dec. 5 at 7:05 a.m. and only if a Manhattanhenge sunrise shines through the east windows. When she ventures too far outside the Grand Central complex, she vanishes. Joe and Nora, who have fallen in love, wonder how to assure her continuous presence. Is there an allowable distance she can stray? In 1941, finagling free rooms in the Biltmore (accessible from inside the terminal), they set up a household of sorts. But then comes Pearl Harbor. Joe’s "essential personnel" status keeps him at home, but when his brother, Finn, enlists, Joe shoulders responsibility for Finn’s wife and children. The war, and the dawning realization that Nora can never age or live normally while Joe will grow old, puts pressure on the couple. Much of the novel is taken up solving the supernatural logistics, which can be intriguing. Although the history of Grand Central is fascinating in itself—who knew there was once an art school there?—the dimensions of the story are as tightly circumscribed as Nora’s material world. Despite the static narrative, rendered more so by the leisurely pace, the characters come alive and make us want them to stay that way. The ending comes as a satisfying surprise.

An ingenious and winsome novel.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9343-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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