Liu's fiction is a romp through modern Beijing that pits migrant workers from the provinces against billionaires and...

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THE COOK, THE CROOK, AND THE REAL ESTATE TYCOON

Capitalism in contemporary China is the background to a nonstop hunt by migrant workers, a billionaire, and government officials—for a purse.

"He’d lost a pack and found a purse” is the recurring theme of Chinese author Liu’s new novel. Such a simple thing lost but so complex the machinations to get it back. The pack contains an IOU for 60,000 yuan, and Liu Yeujin, a resourceful cook at a major construction project in Beijing, is on the trail of the thief who took it. Incessant plot twists take on a comic, Keystone Kops–like chase with enemies becoming partners and friends turning on each other. The cook, trying to support his university-enrolled son, needs the money for tuition and his future dreams. The IOU is from his ex-wife’s new husband, who cuckolded him and promised to pay in settlement. Enter the real estate tycoon Yan Ge. Yan has video of a government official taking bribes and whoring during his nights in the city. That may be the ticket to building back the fortune he lost through bad investments directed by the official. The USB drive containing the video was copied by Yan’s wife for her own shady purposes and is hidden in her purse, which is stolen from their home by the same thief who stole Liu’s pack. He drops it while fleeing Yan's house, and Liu finds it, not suspecting the treasure he's picked up. Suddenly everyone is looking for the purse, offering increasingly large amounts of money for it, and in the ensuing pandemonium, we find that most everyone in this Chinese version of urban capitalism is a crook; the humble cook the most wily of them all. The author uses this social commentary to craft a dark comedy out of the angst of survival. There are no real friends here, no heroes, just everyone on the hustle.

Liu's fiction is a romp through modern Beijing that pits migrant workers from the provinces against billionaires and officials, making a wry statement about modern China and a thoroughly entertaining book.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62872-520-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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