Unpersuasive political fiction.




Emery’s debut novel describes one man’s resistance toward the American government.

Unlikely revolutionary Rex Freeman grows up just like any other God-fearing, freedom-loving American: playing football, driving fast, and cheerfully challenging the status quo. Emory’s vision of this innocent America is evident in his description of Rex’s hometown, La Crescent, Minnesota: “This was a place where people worked hard to earn an honest living. They lived in decent homes, people raised their families, went to church….This is where life has its rewards. You put in a good work week and spent the weekend in the splendour in ‘God’s Country.’ Their lives were simple, of modest means and glorious.” After an unsatisfying career in corporate America, Freeman falls in with the Liberty Foundation, where he meets people victimized by the IRS. With his new friends, Freeman founds the American Law Club to keep citizens informed on ways to protect themselves against encroaching federal power. Digging ever deeper into America’s treasury of conspiracy theories, Freeman finds new ways to resist the government and spread his messages of liberty, poking at the sleeping federal giant and eventually incurring its wrath. Amid a cast of fringe revolutionaries of various stripes, Rex finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in danger of losing that which he holds dearest of all: his freedom. Emery claims several times that the novel is “based on actual experiences and events,” and the book certainly reads more like a memoir than a work of fiction, often with a tinge of self-mythologizing: “As Rex began to get a reputation in his local area he had the great pleasure of meeting another very prominent gladiator battling I.R.S. oppression.” The prose is riddled with tense shifts, unexpected British spellings, and a gross overuse of scare quotes employed with little sense of uniformity. As a narrative, the story oscillates between flat characterization and an aggressively simplistic worldview on one hand, and dry accounts of legal disputes and the tax system on the other. While Emery offers a few valid criticisms of America’s federal system, they are crowded in among so many instances of religiosity and paranoia as to render them nearly moot.

Unpersuasive political fiction.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0692360989

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PCF World Mission LLC

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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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