Well-written and intriguing.


We Came All This Way


Abandoning the rest of her family, a woman runs away with her daughter to join her brother on a man-made island/new nation and reflects on what brought her there.

Welcome to nowhere,” begins narrator Roseanne Okerfeldt, nowhere being a salvaged Danish oil rig in the North Atlantic, bought at auction and conceived as an independent island nation called Mobility. At first numbering 38 residents, the population’s dwindled to 10. Rosie, 31, is there to support her wheelchair-using brother—34-year-old President Wallis Crim—but also because she’s a fugitive. Tracing the circumstances that brought her to Mobility, Rosie looks back on a life of unfocused impulse. She works retail, gets pregnant and married at 19, and soon has three more children. For child care, she depends on her mother-in-law, whom she both resents and takes for granted. She runs off (taking her oldest daughter) to her brilliant older brother in Canada, where she meets his mentor and plans to start a micronation. Heppner (This Can Be Easy or Hard: Stories and Essays, 2014, etc.) has an excellent ear for sly, revealing dialogue: Cathy, a Mobility resident, “smiled grimly and took a bite of her roll….‘I’ve had work produced. He Raped Me ran for three weeks in Portland.’ ” His characters are sharply individual and well-delineated. Rosie’s account of her life—a string of bad decisions that she doubles down on—is engrossing and well-told, though her victimhood stance doesn’t convince: “[I]t was never my intention to abandon my children. As far as I’m concerned, they abandoned me,” she sniffs. She implies they’re better off without her—the standard excuse of a runaway. Heppner’s skill creates distance, however: the narrative voice is articulately intelligent and observant, but Rosie is narcissistic and unimaginative. (She writes in her notebook, but it’s hard to see where her linguistic finesse comes from.) Also, her brother Wallis remains obscure as a character even though he’s the real reason for Rosie’s joining Mobility: “He’s why I came here, you know.”

Well-written and intriguing.

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1632260154

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Thought Catalog Books/Prospecta Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2015

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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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