ROVER'S TALES

Lewin, noted for his pixilated parade of unlikely detectives (Family Business, 1995, etc.), forgoes mysteries for the picaresque meanderings and musings of Rover, the Independent Dog. In 37 brief confessions, Rover narrates his adventures on behalf of the canine nation against human oppressors. ``We're not insensate beings! What about some rights here!'' This creed issues from the doomed ``Philosopher'' who's incarcerated with Rover in the pound, and who eventually rescues Rover with advice about the value of temporary degradation—tail thumping, whining—as a tool to attract adoption. Rover is soon again on the road in pursuit of truth, justice, and satisfying dog business. Among his many rescues: a nearly drowned pup whom he drills in essentials—``when rain comes down pups go up!'' (to safe ground), and a canine female dying in a car with closed windows. Rover even rescues the traditionally detested cat, and sometimes a human. But revenge on people who kill or maim dogs is sweet—a jaw-clamp on a backside of a dog kicker comes as a glorious moment. Rover, despite his dogged heroism, also witnesses sad and hurtful canine deaths. Bull sessions are mustered among his fellow wayfarers, and some tricky maneuvers occur with packs: ``A pack with a crazy leader is dangerous.'' Met along the path: Lady, the student of human languages who misses some signals in a parking lot; a three-legged hustler; a dog actress; a female who confesses to previous lives; two ear-splitting carolers; and the great seeress to whom Rover goes for dream interpretation (she is, however, weary of ``primal yelps''). And then there's Love. Rover enjoys a powerful impact on eager females. Opines one, ``[You're] large and strong and roughly handsome . . . and [have] a scent with considerable gravitas.'' A must for the dog-mad, but these cute-free tales are witty and wry enough to reach others with cross-species wisdom.

Pub Date: March 17, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-18169-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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