An unfocussed effort, much like a series of sketches for, say, a story collection.



A dark, murky, undisciplined first novel full of sushi, sex, and suffering.

Power is at her best when describing the selection, preparation, and serving of Asian food, something she does with visceral gusto and authority. Indeed, there are many scenes in this unrelentingly grim story that are well crafted, even lyrical—but they remain only that: fragments in a pastiche of shifting styles and voices that seems to contain just about everything the author may have encountered in life to date. The main characters are a sad, middle-aged, prostitute; an obsessed, guilt-ridden sushi chief (Ito); and his equally sad love interest, a failed, thirtysomething, alcoholic waitress (Marianne) at the sushi bar where he works. Most of the story takes place over a two-day period during which Ito asks Marianne to dinner, partly to warn her that her drinking at work has been noticed. Marianne passes out drunk in her bath, sleeps through the date, and is subsequently fired by the restaurant owner (Yoshi), who, we learn, has previously raped her. Ito then hooks up with the desperate Marianne in an attempt to save her, seduce her, or match her drink-for-drink (it's unclear which) and executes a robbery of the sushi bar on her behalf. Numerous lengthy flashbacks describe characters in the lives of Ito and Marianne, stories of alcoholism, murder, and joylessly repellent sex, including child molestation and child prostitution—tales that bear little relation to each other and eventually overwhelm what little primary storyline there is. Ito and Marianne remain depressed, unsympathetic characters with almost nothing in common beyond the fact that they have both abandoned children in the past, and their pairing at the end in search of the lost children seems forced and mawkish rather than hopeful.

An unfocussed effort, much like a series of sketches for, say, a story collection.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87113-784-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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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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