An end-of-life drama overshadowed by the conflicts of an unappealing protagonist.



In this dreary first novel from an Irish playwright, a lonely Irishman tends to a dying New Yorker while wrestling his own demons.

Trevor Comerford, a 20-something Irishman in New York, is a self-described gentle giant, with a big ugly head and huge hands. Even giants need jobs, so Trevor answers a newspaper ad for a companion to a youth with Muscular Dystrophy. Nineteen-year-old Ed could hardly be in worse shape. Toothpick-thin, his immune system in shambles, death may be only months away. But Trevor is not fazed; at a clinic in Dublin, he had taught kids with every imaginable disorder. After an interview with the kid’s mother, a blimp-like, bedridden horror, and driving a hard bargain with the father, an emotionally distant judge, Trevor moves into their Manhattan apartment. Ed is a handful, and the pain causes him to lash out, but he and Trevor reach an understanding, and they both become better people. Their relationship is certainly smoother than that between Trevor and the reader, for the Irishman is an unreliable narrator, a device Roche handles crudely. He seeks to ingratiate himself with his exotic experiences in India, but later confesses that he’s never been there. He lies about the present too. That soul-searching encounter with the priest in St. Patrick’s? Never happened. What does seem clear is Trevor’s unresolved Oedipus complex. His mother was the love of his life and his mild-mannered father his enemy. Ma wasted away (cancer?), whereupon Trevor left for New York, still churning with an anger he cannot explain. Naturally his few experiences with women stateside are unsatisfying. The bar pickup wants him to urinate on her; Dana, Ed’s hot physical therapist, only wants a one-night stand. These and other episodes constitute Trevor’s life outside the apartment, hardly enough for a full-length novel. At least he does right by the virginal Ed, fixing him up with a hooker who gamely administers oral sex.

An end-of-life drama overshadowed by the conflicts of an unappealing protagonist.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-933372-84-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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