An entertaining if inscrutable meditation on identity and the performative nature of existence.



A fledgling playwright and a purported vampire muddle through life’s absurdities.

Tifft’s follow-up to The Long Fire (2015) follows smoothie-shop employee Lucinda Linde and her live-in boyfriend, Dracula, who works nights for UPS and maintains that he’s a legendary monster. Lucinda initially doubted Dracula’s claims given his square teeth, “stale brown” skin, and refusal to drink from “dewy-eyed young professionals” for fear of making her jealous; she’s come to believe him, though—and not just because the alternative means that she’s dating “a deranged moron who sleeps in a coffin by day and hunts pigeons all night in a show of unsolicited loyalty.” Since Dracula is nocturnal, Lucinda spends her free time focusing on her acting class’s upcoming production of From Hell to Breakfast—a play that she anonymously co-wrote with her teacher about “celebrities dying young and turning into angels, and fallen angels coming to earth from hell to become pop celebrities.” Meanwhile, Dracula suffers memory lapses, triggering self-doubt and prompting readers to suspect his connection to a recent rash of disappearances. Tifft delivers the literary equivalent of a fever dream, complete with baroque prose, stream-of-consciousness storytelling, and alternating first-person, present-tense narratives that don’t quite sync up. An eccentric parade of bizarrely interconnected and ostensibly interchangeable characters adds to the surreal atmosphere and makes the tale feel a bit like a play, itself—something on the order of Our Town meets Waiting for Godot as imagined by David Lynch. Questions go unanswered and mysteries go unsolved, but then, that rather seems Tifft’s point.

An entertaining if inscrutable meditation on identity and the performative nature of existence.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944700-62-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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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 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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