While it sometimes meanders, this amusing tale with a quirky hero offers plenty of surprises.


A comical novel explores the consequences of saving the world.

Boise, Idaho, native Shelby Albert Goddard has saved the world. The details of how, exactly, he did this remain murky but it is true: Without Shelby’s actions, the planet would no longer exist. And this deed has made Shelby quite the celebrity. He can purchase 10-cent tacos at Taco Bell; he never has to pay taxes again; and his face has been added to Mount Rushmore. But for all his good fortune, Shelby is lonely. The only person he can really talk to is a secret agent named Roger Valkyrie, who, when dressed in a suit, looks strikingly like Agent Smith in The Matrix. As Shelby’s fame wanes, he decides to hit the road. He takes up with a fledgling church in Arkansas and gets hired by a mysterious, wealthy company in Chicago. He makes people worry that he may jump off a bridge and he creates his own foundation to help those in need. But what, in the end, will he learn about himself? Gray’s (Exile on Kalamazoo Street, 2014, etc.) story indulges in whimsy from the start. While Shelby may not be able to articulate what he did to save the globe, it doesn’t really matter. From the opening pages, he is off and running, buying his low-cost fast food and looking for somewhere to go. That he winds up in places as ordinary as Arkansas and Chicago makes his journey even stranger. The problem is that his adventure often fails to have much tension. In Chicago, Shelby eats deep-dish pizza, drinks Scotch, and engages in some laughable corporate speak (He is told to remember “visions, synergies, and realignments”) yet there isn’t much pressure at work. Does it really matter if he succeeds or fails? Shelby’s tastes may make him a likable enough protagonist yet not necessarily one worth rooting for. Nevertheless, to say the entire trip is an odd one is an understatement. As much as readers might like to know where the story is going, they will enjoy the abundant twists and turns down the road.    

While it sometimes meanders, this amusing tale with a quirky hero offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946970-80-0

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Redbat Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

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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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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