THE LAST DON

Puzo's seventh novel, a monstrously gripping quasisequel to 1969's The Godfather, flavors itself with none of the Corleones so dear to fans of that earlier potboiler but does simmer the same Sicilian marinara, using a more literate recipe. From its Long Island compound, the Clericuzio family, ruled by the twistedly wise Great White Shark Domenico Clericuzio, dominates the nation's Mafia but longs to go legit. For over 30 years, old Domenico has urged the Clericuzios toward fading namelessly into the nation's fabric, into restaurants, construction companies, and legalized gambling. He has given up drugs as operationally too unwieldy, and now seeks nationwide legalized gambling. Peace has reigned since Domenico's young nephew, Pippi De Lena, wiped out the brutal Santadio family in one bloody evening. But Sicilian vengeance knows no time limit, and one shadowy figure remains of mixed Santadio-Clericuzio blood who now seeks payment and rulership of the Clericuzios. Puzo divides his novel mainly into scenes set on Long Island, in Las Vegas, and Hollywood. Pippi runs Xanadu, the crown jewel of Las Vegas casinos, aided by his son Croccifixio, known as Cross. When Cross finds himself stunned by the beauty of Hollywood's leading actress, Athena Aquitane, he decides to help quell her fear of her acid-slinging ex-husband. Athena departs LoddStone Studios, where she's filming the $100M epic Messalina, and goes into hiding until the threat is removed. To get his foot into the legit film industry, Cross buys the unfinished picture from Loddstone, and quickly, permanently resolves Athena's marital problems. After his father Pippi is murdered, Cross sets out to avenge him. But Cross's instincts tell him that old Domenico may be behind his own nephew's murder. Cross, caught between Scylla and Charybdis, may have to go against his own blood if he is to have revenge. Fabulously well-plotted; drunk on luxury.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-40143-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1996

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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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