Dramatically light, but historically and sociologically interesting.

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CYCLES

From Lisbon to Montreal, De Andrade’s (The Little Sect, 2015, etc.) second novel follows the lives of Marta and Tiago Sousa, a young Portuguese couple who stake their hopes for better opportunities on a move to Canada.

In April of 1974, the fascist government of Portugal that had ruled for almost 50 years was overthrown in a one-day military coup that was known as the Carnation Revolution. It’s on the morning of this revolution that we meet Marta and Tiago, both 24 years old, three-months married, and about to move into a new apartment just outside Lisbon. Marta works in the Lisbon office of SKF, a Swedish company, and Tiago is a mechanic for Auto Europa. Tiago has longed to move to Canada, where he believes that greater chances await for advancement and he can one day run his own auto-repair business. But Marta is pregnant, and the revolution bodes well for their future. They decide to remain close to family and friends, and the first half of the novel depicts the early, Lisbon years of their marriage. In 1979, Tiago is restless, and they agree to move to Montreal with their 4-year old son, Paulo, and start over. What follows is an immigrant’s tale—the hope, the fear, the challenges of learning to be part of a new cultural milieu, not to mention the need to become fluent in two new languages, English and French. The third-person narrative centers around Marta and concentrates on her family relationships and workplace experiences. She obtains employment with a shoe company, S & K Imports, and remains there for 30 years, until her retirement. This focus on her office life—in Lisbon and in Montreal—gives De Andrade the opportunity to explore differences between multicultural French Canada and homogeneous Portugal in terms of social norms, employee environments, and political institutions. There are sporadic grammatical stumbling blocks (“Tiago made sure to have Marta sat by his side.”), but the text is informative, if not quite passionate.

Dramatically light, but historically and sociologically interesting.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-9716-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2017

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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