The author abandons the most relatable character in the narrative to focus on a weaker, less interesting—and in many ways,...

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MARCHING TO ZION

Characters are kicked to the side of the road with little afterthought in Glickman’s (One More River, 2011, etc.) tale of forbidden love and intolerance, set in the South during the early 1900s.

When Mags Preacher arrives in St. Louis in 1916, the young black woman dreams of one day owning a beauty shop. Armed with a $10 loan and directions to a boardinghouse, she finds work in Fishbein’s Funeral Home, which caters to black customers and seems to be a good, if unusual, place to learn her trade. Mags’ hours are spent preparing bodies in the basement beside George McCallum, the manager, whom she marries after a brief courtship. The funeral home was once owned by George’s relatives but was sold to a Jewish émigré whose disturbed daughter, Minerva "Minnie" Fishbein, witnessed the massacre of her biological family during anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe. Magnus Bailey, a handsome black dandy who made the original loan to Mags, is Fishbein’s business partner and good friend, and he also happens to be the object of Minnie’s affection. Affected by extreme acts of racism, Fishbein sells the business and leaves St. Louis. Mags, who has a newborn daughter by this time, is dropped off at her cousin’s home and, after being the central character in the narrative for more than a quarter of the book, pretty much becomes a nonentity. With nary a backward glance, the others travel to Memphis and take center stage. Acutely aware that an interracial relationship can only spell disaster, Magnus lies to Minnie and flees the area, and Minnie tries to follow him. Her journey results in a pivotal experience that affects the course of her life and convinces Magnus that he must take responsibility for their future. (He disappears and works for years in menial jobs before returning to Minnie.) Glickman skillfully conveys the struggles of African-Americans and Jews during this era, but the love story between Magnus and Minnie lacks credibility and emotion.

The author abandons the most relatable character in the narrative to focus on a weaker, less interesting—and in many ways, more predictable—story.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4804-3562-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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