A love story that remains gripping until the very last page.

THE AMULET

A trader takes his young bride into the perilous Canadian wilderness in this historical romance.

It is the summer of 1884 in the District of Saskatchewan in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Ian McNab, a trader and “granite-jawed” Scot, has taken a wife, to the surprise of all who know him. The beautiful Catherine looks about half McNab’s age and has the power to beguile every man who sets eyes on her. A born loner, McNab requested Catherine’s hand in marriage during their first encounter when visiting his father in southern Ontario. Now he finds himself returning with her to his trading post at the remote Pounding Lake, where he knows she will be utterly out of place. Before even arriving, their relationship is fraught—McNab is rough and impatient with her during lovemaking and considers her an “utter disappointment in bed.” And Pounding Lake is a troubled community surrounded by Native American reserves. Relations with the local Cree are becoming increasingly volatile. The strains are compounded when an already bitter winter worsens. Meanwhile, Catherine is introduced to the dashing Jay Clear Sky, a Cree interpreter who, fearing for her safety, gives her a protection amulet. The first draft of this tale was written by Sluman (Poundmaker, 1967, etc.). It was then rescued from obscurity by her daughter, debut author Somers, who “could not resist the urge to tweak” the story a number of years after her mother’s death. Closely based on the Northwest Uprising of 1885, this book, although a work of fiction, has a strong historical foundation. The engrossing narrative has everything required for a successful historical romance: a strong-willed heroine, a mysterious and forbidden love interest, and a viper’s nest of villains who eye Catherine lasciviously. The tension rises incrementally as the tale progresses, making for a true page-turner. But despite the growing sense of unease, there is also a fastidious attention to detail regarding the beauty of the Canadian wilderness: “She could see the water leaping and flashing, blue-green under the bright sunlight, free at last of the ice and debris that had choked it during the spring runoff.” Some readers may find the developing romance cloying, if unpredictable, but fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will discover a comparable treat here.

A love story that remains gripping until the very last page.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-0480-8

Page Count: 253

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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