Emily's reason enough to look twice at this sensitive, simmering little gem of a debut.

STAY

A young girl shocked into silence by her twin's death traces the summer of 1974, as her family races toward deepening crisis.

At a distant glance, Donald Stone’s family might seem like material for an update of Cheaper by the Dozen. The inventor and his uncomplaining wife live with a houseful of children—John, Hope, Sarah, Elizabeth Ruth, Emily, Luke, and baby Owen—in little Cawood, Massachusetts, and vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, where everybody knows everything about everybody else. One of the things everybody knows about the Stones, however, is that their crowded house has seemed empty since their daughter Emily’s twin brother Ham, 11, drowned during their last trip to the Vineyard, and that the family’s never been the same since. Emily has refused to talk, on the grounds that “if I said something now, I'd be like them”; the widening distance between her parents looms like a treacherous gulf; and as everybody waits anxiously to see whether Donald can invent a worthy successor to his Magic Rose (the Tiger Soap and the Supergrow Instant Fertilizer were disappointing flops), such commonplace expressions of irritation as “Dad’ll kill us” come to have an ominous edge. Constantly prodded to break her silence, Emily thinks about talking, and comes closer and closer to forming the words, but still says nothing, even when her silence endangers flirtatious Elizabeth Ruth. When her father packs his troop into a car for a return trip to Martha’s Vineyard, it’s clear that the story is heading toward a showdown, but first-novelist Sullivan, who has a real knack for getting inside Emily without making her sound like a prodigy or a freak, keeps both the nature of her climactic revelations and their import hidden up to the very last minute—and in some ways beyond.

Emily's reason enough to look twice at this sensitive, simmering little gem of a debut.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-58195-025-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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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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