An uplifting tale of love and redemption that’s perfect for fans of stories of rehabilitated youth and second chances.

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A GIRL LIKE THAT

A breezy romance about a single mother who tries to reinvent herself after her young-adult son leaves the nest.

Flinn (The Nest, 2015, etc.) has created a memorable, multidimensional heroine in Elle McLarin, a lonely middle-aged woman stuck in small-town North Carolina, where she can’t escape her criminal past. During her teenage years, Elle spent 12 months in prison as punishment for slipping her high school crush a roofie and taking advantage of him. She was pregnant with another man’s child at the start of her incarceration, and by the time of her release, she had an infant son and a scandalous reputation that she couldn’t live down. As the book opens, her son has turned 18 and left for the Army. Elle, now 37 years old, is finally able to leave town and start fresh. She drives across the state and settles on the North Carolina coast, where she opens a bakery and begins making new friends for the first time in nearly two decades. It’s not long, however, before her past catches up with her. After she finally begins to enjoy her new successes and even explore a relationship with her handsome neighbor, an odd sequence of events lands her in the spotlight on national news. Her new beau, Nate, learns all about the inglorious woman she used to be, and she worries that their budding relationship won’t survive. The strengths of this engaging, plot-heavy page-turner are in its character development of Elle and the perfect pitch of its narrative voice. Flinn depicts Elle as a complicated woman with constantly conflicting emotions. As the first-person narrator, she’s initially quite unlikable but gradually reveals that beneath her seemingly uneducated persona is an intelligent, pragmatic, and bighearted woman who’s worked hard to improve herself. Readers won’t be able to help rooting for her to find happiness as the story winds its way to its conclusion.

An uplifting tale of love and redemption that’s perfect for fans of stories of rehabilitated youth and second chances.

Pub Date: May 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0990719779

Page Count: 366

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 19, 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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