An endearing, bittersweet romance that reads like a comedy.

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MY WIFE AND MY DEAD WIFE

Loser tailor seeks woman willing to subjugate herself and deal with his multitude of issues.

In his last outing (The Locklear Letters, 2003), Kun seemed to have an unerring eye for those lost men of the world who pine away for their perfect fantasy women. In this sharper and edgier riff on a similar type, he takes us into the world of Hamilton “Ham” Ashe. Hailing from a small Georgia town, Ham now works as a tailor in Atlanta (having a little boating knowledge, he answered a misspelled ad looking for a “sailor” but got hired anyway), while his live-in girlfriend, Renee, who recently lost her job at a hospital, does nothing. The bulk of the story is a nonstop rant by Ham against Renee and the horrors she inflicts upon him, mostly of the monetary variety. Deciding that she doesn’t want to go back to work, Renee announces her desire to become a country-and-western singer, necessitating the purchase of a guitar, guitar lessons, and some really awful outfits to accompany her horrible songs. Ham takes it all in silent resentment, occasionally flashing back to memories of his ex-wife Shellie, who hailed from the same small town as he. Other memories, of a kid from Ham’s high school who was brutally murdered, also come floating back to prove a crucial development in the story (it’s not what readers might think—this doesn’t turn into a crime novel—but it’s shocking nonetheless). For a time, Ham’s rantings are amusing as Renee goes from one ridiculous type of selfish behavior to another, but as we see more of Ham’s dead-end life, the more sympathetic she becomes. Things at first seem suffused with the sour taste of misogyny, like a standup comic going on endlessly about his crazy girlfriend, but ultimately Kun proves an abler writer than that.

An endearing, bittersweet romance that reads like a comedy.

Pub Date: June 15, 2004

ISBN: 1-931561-69-9

Page Count: 350

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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