Ultimately, this is the story of survival—how life quickens and is borne on through turmoil, pain and perseverance. At times...

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THE QUICKENING

The struggles and embroilments of neighboring farm households in the upper Midwest beginning in the summer of 1913 through the Great Depression, as narrated by the farmers’ wives.

From the beginning, Enidina Current, Eddie for short, is wary of Mary Morrow, and for good reason—the misfortunes the Morrows visit on the Currents are nothing short of biblical. Mary plays the piano and seems ill at ease with the hand she’s been dealt, hard work on the farm with her boys and her rough and sometimes abusive husband Jack. Mary is religious and plays more than just the piano in the lonesome white chapel their pastor, Borden, built with his father. Eddie’s first pregnancy results in a miscarriage—no small blow in a world where children mean the sort of additional labor that can make or break a farm. Somehow, even in this misfortune, there’s the taint of blame. Far-flung as these individualistic farming families might be, judgment and gossip run rampant. Eddie’s is the story of wrongdoing inflicted by the self-righteous on the innocent, of blame twisted from the doer onto the victim. Despite their initial aloofness, the families forge bonds when Eddie turns to Mary for help pending the birth of twins. The households intertwine when one of the Morrow boys, Kyle, whose sensitivity sets him apart from his ilk, becomes a regular fixture on the Current farm. When the Currents, who cannot abide waste, refuse to go along with the killing of pigs as mandated by a movement for solidarity among the region’s farmers desperate to drive prices up, Jack takes matters into his own hands. Bloodshed foreshadows the ultimate penalty Eddie and her family will pay. The tale develops through the narration of both women from later in their lives, elucidating with dramatic irony the warped nature of the judgments and self-justifications of the devout in a community pushed to extremes by the Depression, where some go so far as to call cowardice bravery and to impose their own twisted fears on others. Hoover paints stormy scenes of individuals and communities at odds with one another and with their own dark histories in a vivid, pastoral panorama.

Ultimately, this is the story of survival—how life quickens and is borne on through turmoil, pain and perseverance. At times slow-moving, but imbued throughout with a careful and evenly wrought lyricism.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59051-346-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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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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