Yet Dibdin's title turns out to be accurate after all: a tribute to the power of grace and gratitude to transform even the...

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THANKSGIVING

Quite a change of pace for the urbane creator of Roman detective Aurelio Zen (Blood Rain, 2000, etc.): a teasing, lacerating fable about a new widower maddened by grief.

Anthony always felt he'd met Lucy too late, and was jealous of the ex-husband who'd given her two children as if in passing before splitting up with her, when it would turn out to be Anthony who'd yearn to have shared her family. Now, too soon as well, an airline crash has meant that the British journalist has lost his beautiful, accomplished American wife, whose intelligence and humor made him think of her as "quick." Bent on finding out more about the past she never wanted to discuss, he treks out to the Nevada desert with a newly purchased revolver in his pocket, determined to confront Darryl Bob Allen, who's decorated the godforsaken gas station he runs with a bizarre series of neon figures that are only the first sign of the weirdness ahead. But his meeting with Darryl—who calls him "Tone"; presses liquor on him; expresses a sovereign indifference to Claire and Frank, the children Anthony would've killed to sire; regales him with tales of his connubial relations with Lucy; and offers to let his visitor sample the audiotapes he's made of Lucy disporting herself with a variety of lovers—doesn't go exactly as Anthony expects, and he emerges from the desert still haunted by his late wife. All too quickly, he'll be haunted in other ways too. Not even a frightened retreat to the home he and Lucy had shared in France will exorcise his ghosts; long before the final tableau of this slender tale, he'll have reason to hate the past as much as Lucy ever claimed she did.

Yet Dibdin's title turns out to be accurate after all: a tribute to the power of grace and gratitude to transform even the most blasted lives.

Pub Date: March 29, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-42098-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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