NIGHT WOMAN

Following up on her 1987 novel Sleeping with the Enemy (made into a star vehicle for Julia Roberts), Price returns with a terrific suspenser with a softly ironic fade-out—and a lust for mainstream status. Price, telling us only what her characters do, not what they feel, has the right ingredients for a suspense classic but decides from the start to play for different stakes than the reader expects. The first third is a compassionate, deeply gripping story about Mary Eliot, a wallflower mother of four who has no college degree and is married to insane novelist/college teacher Randal Eliot. Randal has been hospitalized seven times, often having dictated a novel to his wife just before his breakdowns. She types them up while he's away—and he's now worthy of a Pulitzer. Truth is, to keep the family together and Randal employed by his Nebraska university, Mary writes the novels all on her own, from scratch. Randal is far too scattered to write even one legible word. He's also a monster, aglow with his literary success but absolutely insecure about his ``talent.'' During a trip abroad, Randal has another breakdown, pins a paper flower to the back of his hand, and is again hospitalized by Mary, who sits down in a London apartment to write his new novel. Price, who cannibalizes her own works for Mary's oeuvre, is at her most impressive here, as when Mary rents a typewriter: ``The rental shop was small and dusty. Mary waited her turn patiently and watched wreckers demolish a building across the street. Old rooms with their pastel plasterwork of flowers and fruit stood naked above traffic, like underwear or intimate conversations violently exposed to strangers.'' When Randal dies (or commits suicide), Mary marries his prospective biographer, a much too two-dimensionally violent literary fanatic. The first half is pure gold. Don't even wait for the movie.

Pub Date: June 2, 1992

ISBN: 0-671-74993-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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