A bit melodramatic, but a well-told and likable tale nevertheless, in a strong colloquial style that avoids sentimentality.



A touching account of a middle-aged widow who puts her life back together even more spectacularly than it came apart.

“Looking back, it seemed Bena’s life had more or less belonged to her right up until Bobby died and took it away.” From the opening line, Kincaid (Balls, 1998, etc.) makes the direction of her third novel clear. Bena Eckerd is a wife and mother of five in Baxter County, Alabama, and she exhibits a panoply of good country virtues: friendliness, lack of pretense, compassion, and guilelessness. Her late husband Bobby, who died in a car crash along with his mistress Lorraine Redfield, was a good example of southern duplicity but a good man all the same. After his death, Bena devotes herself to her teenaged children and relies on her friends for comfort, but eventually she finds herself drawn more and more to Lucky McKale, her mailman. Lucky is married to Sue Cox, a vehement drunk who gives speeches to schoolchildren on the evils of alcohol, and Bena is a good Baptist not inclined to take up with another woman’s husband—even if that woman is something of a local joke. Eventually, however, love wins out, and Bena and Lucky marry, though their happiness is short-lived. Lucky leaves for California to help his ailing sister check into an experimental clinic in Mexico—and disappears. Meanwhile, Bena’s daughter Leslie falls in love with Lucky’s son Corbin and the two of them run off to Texas. Bena’s daughter Sissy turns up pregnant, the father having just left for Spain on a cruise liner. And Sue Cox herself starts hanging around, asking if Bena has any “word” of her husband. The course of true love is rarely smooth, but does it have to be as rough as a razorback hog?

A bit melodramatic, but a well-told and likable tale nevertheless, in a strong colloquial style that avoids sentimentality.

Pub Date: May 17, 2002

ISBN: 1-56512-348-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

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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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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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