A lush, haunting portrait of an artist born before her time.

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FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON

In this debut novel, which made a splash when released in the author’s native Italy, a young Italian woman recounts the bittersweet life of her eccentric Sardinian grandmother.

Taken to cutting herself and writing passionate love poems to the local boys, the emotional beauty at the center of this brief but powerful debut struggles mightily to find happiness in the traditional island village she calls home. With her story pieced together years later by her granddaughter, it becomes clear that her family looked upon her as a kind of alien, even if she never quite grasped why. After World War I, she reluctantly agrees to marry the displaced widower boarding with her clan. He is a decent man, but emotionally distant, and she does not love him. However, the two find a kind of common ground in the bedroom, and their imaginative couplings make the most of the grandmother’s sexual vitality. But it is not enough, and when she journeys to the mainland to visit a health spa in Cagliari, she meets the Veteran. An elegant gentleman from Milan with one leg, he is also married and seeking treatment for kidney stones. They grow close and begin a passionate affair that becomes the focal point of the grandmother’s life. Back at home, she then gives birth to her only child, a son who grows up to be a gifted classical musician. She continues to pine for the Veteran with equal parts guilt and elation, even as daily life gives her greater comfort. After her death, the granddaughter discovers a book and a letter that reveals additional secrets—and raises additional questions. So was the grandmother delusional, damaged or just misunderstood? The truth lies probably somewhere in the middle, and Agus’ beautifully written tale allows room for a lovely ambiguity. The vivid descriptions of the Sardinian landscape are a fitting complement to the heroine’s conflicted heart.

A lush, haunting portrait of an artist born before her time.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60945-001-4

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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