An honorable failure. The cruelty of a callow youth is an inadequate distillation of man’s inhumanity to man.



Memories of the Armenian genocide haunt an ancient Turkish-American in this novel from Florida attorney Mustian. 

When Ahmet Khan tried to join the Ottoman army in 1915 to fight the British and Russians, he was ruled too young, so the Turk joined the paramilitary gendarmerie instead. His first assignment was a baptism of fire. Later that year, in the army now, Ahmet suffered a brain injury and amnesia. A POW, he emerged from a long coma in a London hospital where Carol, an American nurse, protected and eventually married him. They moved to New York and had two daughters. Now, at the ripe old age of 92, Ahmet (his name Americanized to Emmett Conn) is living alone in Georgia, his wife’s home state. Carol is dead. Ahmet has a seizure. Tests reveal a brain tumor. Suddenly, memories of that first assignment flood back in a series of dreams. Ahmet’s job was to escort 2,000 Armenian deportees across Turkey. It was a death march, one component of the genocide. By the time they reached Aleppo, Syria, only 65 had survived. Disease had claimed many. Ahmet and his fellow gendarmes were brutal. Rape was their prerogative. Ahmet had taken a woman on the Euphrates riverbank, letting her baby perish. All set to rape another, something stopped him. Araxie was barely into her teens. Ahmet was transfixed by her strange beauty (she had mismatched eyes). A mutual attraction, perhaps? This wisp of a romance offsets the horror of the desert trek, a horror that becomes numbing. It’s Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil, tinged by melodrama. Mustian counterpoints this narrative with the small change of old man Ahmet’s life in Georgia, his daughter Violet overseeing his hospital visits. It’s an awkward mix. Ahmet comes to believe that his 17-year-old self was a monster, and he needs absolution, which leads to a wildly improbable conclusion. 

An honorable failure. The cruelty of a callow youth is an inadequate distillation of man’s inhumanity to man.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-399-15634-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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