A few plot-holes here and there, but on balance a promising performance, reminiscent, in interesting ways, of Father Noir’s...

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THE WAKING

Murder, obsessive love, implacable hate, secrets, lies, and other noirish things heighten and tighten a suspenseful debut.

In Droughton, a small town near Minneapolis, it was common knowledge that Will Dunby had stepped up in class when he married Sandy Cross. She could have had her pick, even Will acknowledged, but she’d reached across the tracks to pick him and, since he adored her, he was everlastingly grateful. It wasn’t just that Sandy had money, though she did, in abundance, in keeping with the way she seemed to have everything: looks, brains, an innate sweetness and, Will would have sworn, an inviolable goodness, which is why it hurt so much when he found out about her affair. He found out only when Sandy told him, explaining also that it was over but not telling him why it had had to begin, insisting that she herself could only guess wildly. After a rocky patch, the couple reconciled, and on the night of the accident Will had reason to believe the marriage had been redeemed. Accident? Well, that’s what Will thought it was on first learning that Sandy’s car had gone over a bluff into the river, but the police were convinced—and then Will was, too—that the plunge had been intentional. But why? Shaken, dismayed, Will asked the question repeatedly, deciding at length he had no choice but to widen his search for answers. As Sandy lingered, comatose, Will investigated, but the more he discovered the more he realized that his wife had been a mystery. Not only to him, but to others as well, some who loved her, some who hated her, and one who did both.

A few plot-holes here and there, but on balance a promising performance, reminiscent, in interesting ways, of Father Noir’s (James M. Cain’s) Double Indemnity.

Pub Date: June 18, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-273423-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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