A striking tale of coming-of-age, loss, sexuality, and self-discovery, filled with rich characters.


A Faithful Son

Garvin depicts the splendor and squalor of both the natural and human worlds in this debut literary novel.

Zachariah Aaron Nance at first appears to be set up for a simple life. Born and raised in Durango, Colorado, he begins life knowing the feeling of dirt under his fingernails, sweat on his brow, and God in his heart. His childhood is split between the natural world and the town and his family. Zach’s father is a salt-of-the-earth type, taking odd jobs across local farms to support the family financially, while Zach’s mother’s strong ties to the Baptist church and the community support them spiritually. Zach’s trials and tribulations also at first seem like the expected hazards of being a growing boy—trouble with school, an eye for mischief, and a hint of the angst that comes of being a middle child. But while there’s youthful joy in small-town living, there’s also poison under its skin in the forms of poverty, alcoholism, racism, and homophobia. When tragedy strikes the family, his father withdraws into drinking, his mother into religion, and Zach loses his fragile grip on the world as he struggles with this fractured clan, the fortitude and responsibility it requires, and his own identity. The writing in this novel is excellent, a mix of clear, no-nonsense storytelling to move the narrative forward and vibrant, nigh-poetic language to describe the play of sunlight, water, dust, greenery, and human beings that make up Zach’s universe (“Colorado mornings on the brink of spring begin with a deep purple reflection rising low on the horizon. The lavender glow spreads out and up as dawn slowly consumes the fading night....The season’s bitter freeze begins its gradual thaw, and the forest floor and frozen tundra welcome the new warmth”). At the same time, the story bravely and honestly delves into the existential questions and trials of faith that Zach undergoes, from a childhood fever dream where he’s visited by Jesus to his more conscious realizations of the unfairness of the world and what God’s role in such a place could be. Finally, straightforward, genuine dialogue gives voice and individuality to the vivid cast of characters. Zach’s joy, pain, longing, and isolation are real and palpable throughout, and every piece of the story and setting only furthers the life and experience bled onto the page.

A striking tale of coming-of-age, loss, sexuality, and self-discovery, filled with rich characters.

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5194-1473-1

Page Count: 308

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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