Absent the fish-out-of-water-in-Vermont aspect, this sequel flounders.

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YANKEE DOODLE DIXIE

Second in a series begun with the well-received Whistlin Dixie in a Nor’easter (2009), in which Patton’s heroine Leelee returns to her native Memphis.

As she flees the endless winter of Vermont, Leelee Satterfield reflects that it was her ex’s dream to run a B&B in Yankee territory, not hers. It’s not an easy decision: Fiery (her nickname) redhead Leelee had turned the once mildewed inn into a thriving Southern-themed country hostel and starred restaurant, with the help of handsome chef Peter. Just before her departure, Peter, who has not hitherto acknowledged the frisson between them, kisses Leelee. Back in Memphis with two young daughters, Leelee depends on her late parents’ former housekeeper, Kissie, to handle the domestic front. Kissie, who talks like Mammy in Gone with the Wind, babysits, cooks and “Lawds” up a storm, while Leelee finds employment at Classic Hits FM 99. Her three BFFs welcome Leelee back with peach daiquiris and dubious advice. On the job, she contends with the pranks of lovable DJ Johnny and the smarmy advances of the hygiene-challenged midday jock Stan, not to mention her cold-fish boss who warns her against fraternizing with the luminaries who visit the station. However, when rock star Liam White stops by on his tour, he’s so taken with Leelee that he offers her an all-expenses-paid trip to his gig in NYC. Leelee has misgivings (she’s still hung up on Peter but her letters to him go unsent), but after assurances that her groupie status will be purely platonic, she goes. Naturally her decision results in some complications. Patton, a broadcast veteran, knows her radio, but much of the book feels padded, and the foregone conclusion is telegraphed from the beginning by the title.  

Absent the fish-out-of-water-in-Vermont aspect, this sequel flounders.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-55693-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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