Not for the faint of heart.

READ REVIEW

IN A DARK WOOD

Dutch novelist Möring (The Dream Room, 2002, etc.) pulls out all the stops in this rich, complex, obscure and polyphonic narrative of a descent into the soul.

The pilgrim is Jacob Noah, who hid for the last three years of World War II. When he emerges, he finds his parents and brother gone and little meaning in his life. He returns to his father’s shoemaking shop in the village of Assen in the Netherlands, marries a farmer’s daughter and starts a family, but he remains haunted by his past and his inability to escape his Jewish identity. He succeeds beyond his expectations in becoming rich, yet feels empty and unfulfilled. After a car accident almost takes Jacob’s life, he finds himself in the strange hands of a peddler called “The Jew of Assen,” an embodiment of death who becomes a Virgil of sorts. (The book echoes Dante’s Inferno, Homer, Greek mythology, Miles Davis and more.) When the peddler takes Jacob into his past and into his soul, it becomes clear that the shoemaker is no shrinking violet. When revisiting a particularly egregious act of anti-Semitism, Jacob puts his guide on the defensive by exclaiming, “So? Where were you? Were you a ghost in the shadows? Were you one of the people who stood laughing and watching along the side of the road?... Where were you?” At the end of the novel Jacob moves toward feeling at home in the here and now: In a cemetery called Beth Olam, Hebrew for “the house of eternity,” he remembers that olam also means world and thinks, “House of the world…he liked the sound of it.” Möring loves to experiment wildly with form, transforming parts of his narrative into cartoons, embracing digressions in enormous parentheses and using graphics to depict fireworks onomatopoetically.

Not for the faint of heart.

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-621241-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more