Starts out fresh and funny, then turns awfully cute awfully fast. Still, the story is entertaining, and the author has a...

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WAIT AND SEE, ANNIE LEE

Amusing if overextended debut about the misadventures of a Colorado waitress.

Annie Lee Fleck would like to have a baby, and there’s no physical reason why she can’t. Her husband Lucas, an innovative chef, is lusty and loving; the kindly local doctor has assured her it’s only a matter of time. But Annie is given to obsessions, and she’s soon preoccupied with ovulation schedules and other minutiae of conception. In fact, she wants a baby so much that she invents one. She calls the 800 number of Poison Control and says worriedly that her imaginary child, Sydney, has swallowed a leaf from an ornamental orange tree. Delighted by the caring response she gets from the unknown phone counselor, Annie Lee calls them more and more. This isn’t her only idiosyncrasy. She also spends her off-hours dreaming up new paint colors—mixed for her by the long-suffering owner of the hardware store—and repainting every room in the old Victorian house she shares with Lucas. And she invents and collects fortunes, epigrams, mottos, and the like. When Lucas overhears one of her Poison Control calls, he decides his eccentric wife has gone too far. He decamps to his mother’s house in Seattle to think things over, and Annie finds out upon his return that he ran into an old flame. Can this marriage be saved? Perhaps. Annie Lee swallows a huge diamond left in a martini by a nutty customer, who then gives it to her. With a little money at last, she and Lucas plan to open a restaurant. The bottom floor of their old house should prove ideal for this purpose—why, pots and pans stick to the walls, as if by magic! Readers may well be weary of whimsical complications by the time the elderly next-door neighbors explain this phenomenon.

Starts out fresh and funny, then turns awfully cute awfully fast. Still, the story is entertaining, and the author has a talent for quirky characterization.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2001

ISBN: 0-446-52690-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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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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