WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL?

Moore's (Like Life, 1990, etc.) account of a disillusioned American in Paris recounting a childhood friendship feels like rereading a diary entry about that first middle-school dance- -dreamy, tender, embarrassing, and endlessly enticing. (A shorter version of this book appeared previously in the New Yorker.) Berie Carr, a successful photography curator, has reached the point in life where social occasions demand that one speak of ``one's upbringing and be amusing at the same time.'' No problem here. There's plenty of comic fodder in her parents (cold Baptists who took in foreign students, political exiles, and foster children), her hometown of Horsehearts, NY, (a typical small town, across the border from Quebec), her summer job (a ticket-taker at a two-bit amusement park called Storyland), and her long-awaited pubescence (the word ``developed'' filled her with dread; she avoided all dresses with darts). But now she and her philandering husband vacation in Paris, making PÇpÇ LePew jokes as a brief respite from petty quarrels about where they are or where they're going: ``the questions no longer just metaphorical but literal, replete with angry pointing and some disgusted grabbing of maps, right out of the other's hands.'' Berie looks for answers to the present by returning to the past. In Horsehearts, Silsby ChaussÇe, a beautiful girl who played Cinderella at Storyland, was Berie's best friend. The two smoked cigarettes together, used fake IDs to get into bars, stayed out all night, sneaked liquor from their parents' stashes—the usual stuff. But gradually, when Sils got breasts and then a boyfriend and then pregnant, she moved into a new world where Berie couldn't follow. Then, Berie went off to boarding school and college, and finally Sils was left behind. Sifting through these memories, Berie finds answers about love and kindness and hope that, even if they don't change her life, make it more livable. Moore's voice sings and soars in this perfect little book—too bad it ends so soon.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-43482-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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