A work that examines mysteries of life in an astute, concise manner.


Put the Sky Inside of You

Debut author Toth offers a philosophical novel about learning lessons over a lifetime.

In 1980s Czechoslovakia, military service was required for men over the age of 18, and spending two years in the austere training ground, known as a kasarne, wasn’t seen as an enviable situation. The young men, usually aged between 19 and 22, “felt deprived of their youth, deprived of chatting with girls, deprived of having the fun that an ordinary free life would otherwise offer to them.” Jirka and Jozef meet in a kasarne, and they form a bond as Jozef aids Jirka in writing love letters to his sweetheart, Margareta. However, the men’s relationship is marked by jealousy: who, after all, is the one truly winning over Margareta? Then, after a brief discussion of Einstein and the theory of relativity, the narrative shifts to detailing the life of a man named Julo, who’s born in Czechoslovakia in 1961. But before much is revealed about him, readers find out that he ended up jumping to his death from a kitchen window; the question then becomes “Why? Why did he jump?” As the narrative details Julo’s story, including such events as considering the purchase of a Škoda 105 automobile, serving his military requirement (during which he meets Jirka and Jozef), and mastering “Autogenous Training” relaxation techniques, readers know it’s all destined to end in tragedy. Although one may ascertain from the book’s title that things will get dreamy, Toth instead keeps the plot developments grounded in the real world. It all culminates in a work that’s realistic and contemplative, incorporating both love and tragedy while mingling youthful advice (such as the sentiment that a boy shouldn’t “run to catch bus or after a girl….[I]n 15 minutes another comes”) with more abstract concepts (such as when Jirka wonders if the human brain has its own “event horizon”). Although some readers may not be won over by the characters’ contemplation, those who take an interest in Julo’s experiences will likely want to see how they all come together—or, more accurately, given the character’s suicide, how it all falls apart.

A work that examines mysteries of life in an astute, concise manner. 

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-4103-0

Page Count: 140

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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