A taut, disturbing family tale.

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THE BABY MONITOR

A NOVELLA OF FAMILY HORRORS

A dark novella focuses on the primal fears that befall parents—and anyone else who has endured the uncertainty of sleepless nights.

Parents often talk of the long evenings that come with caring for a newborn, but Richard and Lissa Platte face another level of struggle. Their 14-month-old child, Asher, has night terrors, and they’ve barely slept in the last six months. For Richard, every evening turns into “an ocean without shores.” He sadly wonders about the “terrible dreams” that plague his son. As the Plattes’ grip on reality slips away—Asher fussing and biting at day care, Lissa faltering on the careful preparation and style that propelled her to manage her own salon, and Richard losing time and awareness, forgetting the simplest of tasks or obligations—they begin to question whether something more sinister is going on. The flickering lights and sounds of their baby monitor seem to taunt them, and they each know that a breaking point—and a reckoning—will come. Their home, their lives, their jobs, their family have all become haunted, and when they find out what’s to blame, there’s no telling if they’ll ever recover. Ingwalson’s (Owl & Raccoon: Locked, 2016, etc.) narrative is effective and suspenseful, and while the conclusion at first appears to be a standard, urban legend-style twist, the ending is more complex and satisfying than that. At times, the prose needs some editing, as convoluted sentences get in the way of the mood: “She picks her phone up from a bedside table she found antiquing and sanded down and replaced the handles with little jewels and she did all these things herself.” But there are certainly instances when the minimalist writing style really impacts the reader, cutting to the core of the story: “There comes a moment when adults see past the flesh, past the noise and know themselves, and Richard thinks, Oh please, please don’t let this be that moment. This can’t be me.” While some readers may feel that the short length leads to a lack of details about the characters and their surroundings, others should enjoy the tight pacing and claustrophobic dynamic.

A taut, disturbing family tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5423-1125-0

Page Count: 124

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2017

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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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