Devastatingly powerful scenes trapped in a rickety plot.

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AGE OF CONSENT

An unflinching look at sexual abuse from an author who isn’t afraid of difficult subjects.

When Bobbie ran away from home at 15, she intended to go back—as soon as the man who was molesting her moved out of her widowed mother’s house. Then Bobbie’s mom married Bobbie’s rapist, and Bobbie just kept running. Thirty years later, she returns to Maryland for one reason: to bring charges against the man who abused her. Having written popular novels about autism (Daniel Isn’t Talking, 2006) and early death (Dying Young, 1989), Leimbach is no stranger to tough topics. As she shifts back and forth in time—alternating between 1978 and 2008—she offers a horribly believable depiction of a child ensnared by a predator. In giving a voice to Bobbie’s mother as well as Bobbie, she foregoes the urge to simply blame a woman who failed to protect her daughter. However, this novel isn’t quite as deft as some of the writer’s other work. At several critical points, the plot depends on coincidence and actions that strain credulity. For example, on Bobbie's first night back in Maryland, as she’s waiting to testify against her abuser, her mother shows up at the isolated guesthouse where she's staying. Not only does her mother—and, most likely, her mother’s husband—know where she is, but Bobbie also has reason to suspect that her mother got word of her whereabouts from the innkeeper. Bobbie doesn’t even consider finding other, safer accommodations. This rather astonishing lapse in judgment only makes sense in that it’s necessary for setting up a climactic scene. Some readers may admire the way in which Leimbach essentially abandons the court case that provides her story’s scaffolding—the criminal justice system doesn’t always provide a satisfying conclusion—while others are likely to find that the author has broken a narrative contract.

Devastatingly powerful scenes trapped in a rickety plot.   

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-54087-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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