No serious insight into how governing works, but an enjoyably gossipy dishing of Inside-the-Beltway residents of all...

READ REVIEW

EIGHTEEN ACRES

Given Wallace’s previous gigs as G.W. Bush’s communications director and an advisor to the McCain-Palin ticket, it is impossible to read her first novel about the tribulations of the country’s first woman president without trying to glean factual nuggets from the often-transparent fiction.

Moderate Republican Charlotte Kramer, 45th president of the United States, heads into her re-election campaign struggling with the troubled economy and war in Afghanistan left by her (Republican) predecessor and beset by criticism that she’s too cool and unemotional—aside from being female, white and Republican, she sounds a lot like Barack Obama. Chief of staff Melanie Kingston, who is burned out after 15 years in the White House, learns from her media source that Charlotte may be about to face a sex scandal on top of her governing issues. The truth that Charlotte already knows but doesn’t want to share with Melanie is that her husband Peter is the one having an affair, with White House correspondent and weekend anchor Dale Smith. The presidential marriage has been a sham for years since Charlotte began putting her career before Peter and their children (cardboard characters conveniently tucked away at boarding school). When Charlotte comes under sniper attack in Afghanistan, her Secretary of Defense Roger Taylor—whose devotion is barely platonic—saves her life by switching helicopters with the press, causing Dale serious injury. Wracked by guilt, Charlotte drops everything to sit by Dale’s bedside until she’s well enough to travel. Charlotte fires Roger and acknowledges Peter and Dale’s relationship in what turns into a PR coup. Then her trusty vice-president drops off the ticket so she can replace him with the crude, despicable Tara Meyers, a conservative Democrat with no experience but vaulting ambition; fashionista Melanie’s antipathy toward Tara comes across largely in her disdain for Tara’s clothes. Meanwhile go-getting Dale recovers under Peter’s care only to go to work for Tara. The poor men in this novel are such pushovers.

No serious insight into how governing works, but an enjoyably gossipy dishing of Inside-the-Beltway residents of all persuasions.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9482-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more