Gripping and insightful.

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WINGSHOOTERS

Revoyr's fourth novel (Southland, 2008, etc.) is a coming-of-age saga in which racism cuts across loyalties between family and friends.

It's the early 1970s, and post-Vietnam social turmoil is unabated. Not yet 10, Michelle LeBeau is left with her paternal grandparents in the blue-collar town of Deerhorn, Wis. Michelle's mother, a native of Japan, had abandoned her husband and daughter several years earlier, and Michelle's unstable, restless and disgruntled father thinks he can convince his wife to return, if he can only find her. Michelle feels abandoned when her father slips away without saying goodbye, but she also dotes on her grandfather, Charlie, a man who despised his son's interracial marriage but treasures the child it produced. He affectionately calls her "Mikey" and discovers that she is a willing participant in all things hunting and fishing that his son avoided. Told from the viewpoint of an adult Michelle, the novel rings with insight about the world of adults, even while it simultaneously portrays young Michelle authentically. Readers hurt when she is bullied, harassed and isolated because she is an exotic mixture of races, and readers understand when she discovers a version of her own troubles in the town's outright hatred of two other Deerhorn newcomers, an African-American couple, the Garretts. These characters—the woman a nurse, the husband a substitute teacher—are somewhat one dimensional, but nevertheless sympathetic and believable. Revoyr also does well in portraying the Garretts' primary nemesis, Earl Watson, "war hero and business leader and upstanding citizen." But Watson lives with a dark, brutal secret. The author is to be applauded for her ability to effectively portray Charlie, a thoroughly complex human being undone by grief when hatred and friendship, loyalty and love collide. As the adult Michelle wonders if "there are sins for which there is no redemption," the melancholy resolution concludes the narrative convincingly.

Gripping and insightful.

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-936070-86-2

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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