A fascinating tale of how chance interconnects the lives of a handful of strangers.

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In Rycus’ (The Soil Is Dead, 2012, etc.) novel, a dying man receives an unexpected gift while vacationing in Bali.

After a brief prologue in which saintly Father Pavlos of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Ypsilanti, Mich., confesses his need to relate a remarkable story, that story begins with young engineer Joey Gilbert’s doctor bluntly telling him, “You’ve got incurable cancer.” Gilbert is stunned; he and his wife, Gabriella, had been planning their second honeymoon, this time off the beaten track in Bali, and now everything has changed. But the doctor suggests they go through with their vacation, and he recommends an old doctor-colleague of his as a contact person in Bali. That colleague, Dr. Setiawan, is sympathetic to Gilbert’s tragedy and gives him some specially made tea that immediately soothes him. Setiawan gives him a small supply of tea leaves to take back with him to the States, where customs inspectors at the Detroit airport confiscate the tea leaves as suspicious contraband. The confiscation hardly matters to Gilbert; he’s too elated at learning that his cancer has entirely disappeared. Meanwhile, customs agent Konstantinos “Connie” Sarbanes, who’s brought home some of the mysterious remedy, smokes it hoping that it’ll ease the irritation of his newly diagnosed glaucoma—but it cures it instead. Likewise, Nando Garcia, a janitor at the Detroit airport, wonders if using some of the leaves he brought home from work might ease the symptoms of his daughter’s muscular dystrophy—and they eliminate her disease entirely. When temperamental Ypsilanti police officer Mitch Foley visits the bedside of his partner who’s been shot in the chest, the gravely wounded cop jokingly sprinkles some of the ground-up plant on his chest, and he makes a full and speedy recovery. After coming in contact with the leaves, even Foley’s chronic anger issues resolve themselves. Father Pavlos keeps a record of these and other seeming miracles in his “T file,” and as Rycus’ completely winning narrative works to its climax, possible deeper significances of the wonders wrought by the unusual cure are explored. In vignette after vignette, Rycus expertly animates his characters.

A fascinating tale of how chance interconnects the lives of a handful of strangers.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1475972337

Page Count: 240

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2013

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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