Uncertain in focus, uneven in pacing, Trasandes’ novel’s strength lies in its sensitive portrayal of complex emotional lives.

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BROKEN LIKE THIS

Relaxed, happy, driving with friends along a coastal road in Spain, Kate Harrington lies in the back seat, caressing the new life in her belly, while her friends laugh in the front seat. Suddenly, there is a truck ahead and then a crash.

Kate’s accident sends her constellation of friends and family into disarray. The possibility of losing Kate is beyond bearing. Back home in California, she’s left her two loves behind: Louis and Angela. Louis’ life has twined and untwined with Kate’s over the years, from high school buddies to lovers to fiances. Angela knew something lay deep in Kate’s heart, some wall that kept even her lovers from getting too close, something that would send her to Brazil and Spain. She got her answer when Kate sent her a copy of her thesis, with its dedication page that thanked Angela and Louis. It also forgave Kate’s mother. Yet, as Angela and Louis remember meeting Kate, falling in love with her and the impossibilities of capturing her, the pace of Trasandes’ debut novel slows. The urgency of flying to Kate’s side fades, and it seems that the longer Kate remains uncommunicative, the longer they can linger in poignant memories, the longer they can keep her alive. Unfortunately, that meandering in memories makes it difficult to sustain suspense. The precariousness of Kate’s grip on life fades into background noise, leaving Angela and Louis center stage, yet neither has the charisma of Kate. When Kate’s stepfather, Don, arrives in Spain, a battle ensues between Louis, who loves her, and Don, who abused her. The novel’s tempo picks up, yet the shift from bittersweet elegy to vengeful thriller is jarring.

Uncertain in focus, uneven in pacing, Trasandes’ novel’s strength lies in its sensitive portrayal of complex emotional lives.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00683-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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