Canadian writer Bowering’s second novel (after To All Appearances a Lady, 1990) memorably chronicles the toll taken by wars (the World Wars, Korea, and the Cold War) and random accidents upon three families whose lives sometimes mingle too neatly. Like Pat Barker, Bowering is claiming territory that has long been a masculine preserve: martial battle and its long-term consequences. The story of the three families here, and the events that associate or separate them, begins in Winnipeg in 1960 at a football game. There, Albrecht Storr watches as his childhood friend and neighbor Nate Bone dies. Moving back and forth from the 1930s to the ’60s, various narrators relate the costs of war and linked catastrophes for the families (there’s also a parallel story: that of Fika, a Russian explorer who in 1960 is making her way across the polar icecap to Canada, freedom, and the family she was yanked from earlier by the Nazis). The death of Nate’s sister Lily led him to run away at 12 with a neighbor’s baby; and, in the 1950s, to ’swap— his own deformed baby for another, the deformities a result of medical experiments performed on Nate as a WWII POW; and, in the Korean War, to be branded a traitor. For the Storr family, the two World Wars meant the breakup of a marriage, the death of a German half-sister, and the loss of Gerhard, Albrecht’s twin brother, who while studying in Germany joined the Nazi army, only to die later in a Soviet labor camp. The third family’s two daughters also lose their children under tragic circumstances. Nate returned to Winnipeg in the late 1950s in a Cold War swap, and by 1960 new connections are established to replace those severed by war, death, or infidelity. A narrative high-wire act, as well as a subtle meditation on chance, luck, and inevitability—for all of which war offers the perfect if drastic laboratory.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-019148-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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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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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 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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