A gracefully composed but emotionally empty reflection on middle-age crazy.

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THE SAME CITY

A Manhattan attorney uses the confusion and grief surrounding a terrorist attack to disappear from his uneventful life.

In this translation of his 2013 short novel, Martín (Woman in Darkness, 2014, etc.) offers up a fable about deferred dreams, the ambiguity of one’s true self, and the pursuit of happiness. Writing in his own voice, the novelist tells the story of a man named Brandon Moy, whom he met at a literary conference in Spain in 2008. On Sept. 10, 2001, prompted by a chance encounter with an old friend, 41-year-old Moy takes stock of his unimaginative marriage and his dreary job managing legal affairs in the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Seeing his friend, Albert Fergus, confronts Moy with memories of all the dreams he once held: to play the saxophone, to write, and to lead an adventurous life. When the terrorist strike kills everyone in his office, Moy (who was late getting to work) throws away his wallet, smashes his cellphone, and takes to the road. “Leaving someone is a betrayal,” Moy thinks. “Dying, on the other hand, is not.” He first travels to Boston, where he takes on the name of Albert Tracy, works in a coffee shop, beds a widow, and reinvents himself. Traveling to Bogotà and later to Spain, Brandon/Albert takes drugs, sleeps with many women, has a gay experience, races cars, and eventually becomes a highly respected poet and intellectual. While Martín’s writing is elegant, the wish fulfillment that drives Moy’s alter ego is wildly indulgent and unrealistic to the point of caricature. Worse, the novel doesn’t even follow through on its whimsical premise. After a brutal racing accident, Brandon wakes to find he has little memory of Albert’s incredible adventures and ultimately opts to return to his life in Manhattan. The book is meant to be a contemplation on the nature of happiness—the title comes from a postcard Brandon sends the author, reading only, “It’s always the same city, but sometimes the roads are more beautiful”—but readers are likely to find it more of a trifle.

A gracefully composed but emotionally empty reflection on middle-age crazy.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-84-943496-8-3

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Hispabooks

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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