A surprisingly touching investigation of motive, duty, and greed.



Honig’s debut novel explores the development and deterioration of Vladimir Putin's mind and morals.

Set in Russia a few decades in the future, Honig's novel introduces Nikolai Ilyich Sheremetev, the 24-hour nurse caring for the dementia-ridden former president. Sheremetev has lived his life as an honest man. However, when trouble in the family strikes and his nephew, Pasha, is arrested, Sheremetev mulls over the stakes of maintaining his high morals. While pondering how he might get his nephew out of jail, he learns that the entire staff at the dacha is greedily grabbing at dirty money. As time runs out both for Pasha’s release from jail and Putin’s moments of lucidity, Sheremetev wades his way through moral purgatory. Honig quietly and carefully crafts a tale about truth through time. Putin’s hallucinations are seamlessly intertwined with the present-tense narrative, braiding the past into the ex-president’s increasingly altered state of mind. Without justifying his autocratic brand of leadership, Honig humanizes Putin. “It was a terrible thing, dementia, a disease that struck at the very thing that made a person who he was.” However, what’s left of Putin oscillates between being a son fondly recalling his mother, a madman fighting the disembodied head of a Chechen, and the power-hungry politician he grew up to be. “The reason I was put in this place was to bring order to Russia...” he explains to a long-dead friend. His motives remain murky at best. “With one hand, I gave Russia order, and with the other I took for myself. It’s a fair trade.” Goroviev, a former journalist-turned-gardener, asks a pivotal question: “You wonder, a man who tells such lies…in the end, does he even know the truth himself?” Without any answers, Sheremetev is left to weigh the consequences of stealing from the biggest thief in Russia. Though Honig is a little heavy-handed with rhetorical questions, his study of what remains of a person once time takes its toll on the body and mind is a stunning take on the development of the corrupt and the corrupted.

A surprisingly touching investigation of motive, duty, and greed.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-156-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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