PALACE WALK

THE CAIRO TRILOGY, VOLUME 1

Hard on the first English trade publication of any of the 1988 Nobel prize-winner's fiction (The Thief and the Dogs, Wedding Song, and The Beginning and the End—not reviewed) comes this first volume of his celebrated Cairo Trilogy, written in 1952 and originally published in Arabic in 1956. The complete trilogy takes the family of al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad from WW I to the 1952 overthrow of King Farouk. The opening of this first installment finds pious, licentious al-Sayyid Ahmad ruling his family with an iron hand: his wife Amina passively accepts his nightly absences without any idea how much more gregarious he can be than the tyrant she knows; his sons Yasin, Fahmy, and Kamal tremble in his presence and accept his orders without question even though they're aware of his sexual hypocrisy; his daughter Aisha forgoes a marriage proposal because her older sister Khadija hasn't been spoken for. But al-Sayyid Ahmad's authority is increasingly threatened—when he sends his wife away for making a forbidden trip outdoors in his absence, her sons send intermediaries to plead for her; Aisha is pressed to accept a second proposal; Yasin, bored with his arranged marriage, rapes his wife's servant; and Fahmy joins a nationalist group organizing against the British soldiers who lounge outside al-Sayyid Ahmed's house on Palace Walk—until finally he must accept the ultimate chastisement: one of his children is buried in a public ceremony, and not as his child. The leisurely pace of the long opening can be tough going, but Mahfouz gradually weaves his fractious family's history together with that of their troubled, splendid country with a mastery that recalls the Don saga of Mikhail Sholokov. The remaining volumes of the trilogy are due for publication on New Year's 1991 and 1992—reason enough for celebration.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1989

ISBN: 0385264666

Page Count: 510

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1989

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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