THE NUDE

When the secrets behind an intriguing nude portrait trickle out into the open, a photographer and her artist lover must grapple with the fallout in Sisu’s masterful debut.

Photographer Gwen Mason has just opened up her own studio in Miami and hopes to find her niche in the trendy city. Though she lives with her divorcee mother and doesn’t think she’s interested in a relationship, meeting upcoming artist Adam Straker changes all that. Adam’s paintings are causing quite a stir in the art world, and Gwen knows she’s found something special. He might be 20 years her senior, but that doesn’t stop the couple from embarking on a passionate affair. Yet one of Adam’s paintings arouses Gwen’s curiosity like no other; it’s a striking portrait of a nude woman, one Adam keeps hidden and pointedly refuses to discuss. When Adam has the chance to land a spot in a prestigious New York City gallery, Gwen believes the painting will secure his place, and she shows “The Nude” to Adam’s manager without Adam’s knowledge. Though the painting clinches the New York deal, it starts an explosive chain reaction for Adam and Gwen. In the coming weeks, decades-old secrets of destroyed lives and loves, of tragedy and revenge, of greed and madness, are revealed at a cost no one could have foreseen. Sisu nicely ramps up the suspense with her excellent pacing, while her vibrant depiction of the art world breathes energy and authenticity into the narrative. Gwen and Adam’s stormy relationship rings true, though delving into Adam’s point of view earlier would have delivered a more well-balanced story. Gwen’s feistiness and sometimes bad choices make her sympathetic and fully human, and readers will root for her to discover her past and keep her man. But it is Sisu’s analysis of the creative process that forms the heart of this novel; she explores the artistic mentality in all its bizarre and often-misunderstood facets and digs deep into the dark underbelly of creative genius and its unintended consequences.    An enthralling first novel. 

 

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2011

ISBN: 978-1465339225

Page Count: 257

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2012

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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