Wickedly sharp, if not altogether pleasant, it’s a near-perfect realization of a singular vision—and definitely not for...

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BUNNY

A viciously funny bloodbath eviscerating the rarefied world of elite creative writing programs, Awad’s latest may be the first (and only?) entry into the canon of MFA horror.

Samantha Heather Mackey is the single outsider among her fiction cohort at Warren University, which is populated by Bunnies. “We call them Bunnies,” she explains, “because that is what they call each other.” The Bunnies are uniform in their Bunniness: rich and hyperfeminine and aggressively childlike, fawning over each other (“Can I just say I loved living in your lines and that’s where I want to live now forever?”), wearing kitten-printed dresses, frequenting a cafe where all the food is miniature, from the mini cupcakes to the mini sweet potato fries. Samantha is, by definition, not a Bunny. But then a note appears in her student mailbox, sinister and saccharine at once: an invitation to the Bunnies’ Smut Salon, one of their many Bunny customs from which Samantha has always been excluded, like “Touching Tuesdays” or “making little woodland creatures out of marzipan.” And even though she despises the Bunnies and their cooing and their cloying girlishness and incomprehensible stories, she cannot resist the possibility of finally, maybe being invited into their sweet and terrifying club. Smut Salon, though, is tame compared to what the Bunnies call their “Workshop,” which, they explain, is an “experimental” and “intertextual” project that “subverts the whole concept of genre,” and also “the patriarchy of language,” and also several other combinations of creative writing buzzwords. (“This is about the Body,” a Bunny tells Samantha, upon deeming her ready to participate. “The Body performing in all its nuanced viscerality.”) As Samantha falls deeper into their twee and terrifying world—drifting from her only non-Bunny friend in the process—Awad (13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, 2016) gleefully pumps up the novel’s nightmarish quality until the boundary between perception and reality has all but dissolved completely. It’s clear that Awad is having fun here—the proof is in the gore—and her delight is contagious.

Wickedly sharp, if not altogether pleasant, it’s a near-perfect realization of a singular vision—and definitely not for everyone.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55973-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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