A gratifying follow-up that will leave readers clamoring for more.

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Twelve Thousand Mornings

Driver-Thiel’s (The World Undone, 2012) sequel continues the story of Anne Bennett, a woman who, after a personal upheaval, must reconnect with her two estranged daughters.

For most of her adult life, Anne has been a reserved, unemotional woman. In a companionable yet loveless marriage to Henry, she has what seems to be an ideal life: affluence in a house that “had been featured in New England Designer Showcase Homes.” Anne wants for nothing—nothing except perhaps to forget about her rebellious daughter Sylvia. Seven years ago, just before her wedding in the previous book, Sylvia ran away to the unlikely state of Michigan. Not only that, but she had threatened to force Anne to meet Sylvia’s half sister Callie, whom Anne had given up for adoption as a teenager. The one to whom Anne, through her lawyer, had paid a hefty sum to never speak with again. However, when Henry dies suddenly from a heart attack, she learns that his business is under federal investigation. Nearly all her assets frozen, Anne moves in with her sister Julia. The visit goes from unpleasant to intolerable, so when Anne receives an invitation from Sylvia, she accepts. Anne is again reluctant, though, for she doesn’t know how or if she will ever repair their relationship, and she dreads seeing Callie, who lives and works nearby. In order to cobble together an entirely new life, Anne must challenge deeply rooted beliefs about herself and her family as she confronts emotions she has pushed down for far too long. Fans of Driver-Thiel’s first novel may be surprised by the shift from third- to first-person narration here, all in Anne’s point of view. They will likely understand, though, as Anne certainly has a lot of explaining to do. Through the story, Anne shifts from a model of arrogance and cruelty to a more receptive, pragmatic woman willing to accept and attempt to change her own faults. This progression is slow, almost imperceptible, so although readers may sometimes feel that Anne’s bouts of introspection are a bit lengthy, the overall impression of her transformation is satisfyingly realistic. In Driver-Thiel’s capable hands, the story hits its target: the possibility of redemption in even the unlikeliest of people.

A gratifying follow-up that will leave readers clamoring for more. 

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9886568-2-6

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Pine Lake Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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