The philosophical and literary musings are inventive, and Lock manages to make the combination of brevity and tall-tale...

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THE BOY IN HIS WINTER

AN AMERICAN NOVEL

The latest from distinguished elder statesman Lock, winner of the Aga Khan Prize from the Paris Review, is an eclectic hybrid of literary appropriation, Zelig-like historical narrative, time-travel tale and old-style picaresque.

It's narrated in 2077 by an octogenarian Huckleberry Finn, who meandered down the Mississippi alongside his stalwart friend Jim for 125 years, from 1835 until 1960, remaining miraculously unchanged by time. Along the way, they drifted southward through the Civil War (Tom Sawyer has a cameo as a Confederate officer, and Jim is photographed at Vicksburg); the uprooting and massacre of Native Americans (they play a role in allowing Cochise to die with dignity); the electrification of the country (which they encounter when they enter the 20th century around Baton Rouge); and the Jazz Age. Jim, trying to wait until racism has either passed away or grown less virulent, leaves the raft in 1960; after a brief excursion into the world of To Kill a Mockingbird, he discovers there's no outlasting that particular viciousness. Huck, who's followed his old companion, ends up having to stand by helplessly as Jim is lynched. He staggers back to the raft and meanders for nearly another half-century, until Hurricane Katrina spits him ashore in a storm-battered south Louisiana necropolis, a landing that at last jars him back into time. Over the next seven decades, an aging Huck serves as an accomplice to a group of marijuana smugglers; lands in juvie; becomes a flashy, globe-trotting yacht broker; marries an African-American woman who writes novels for children; and makes a late-life return to Hannibal, Mo., where he exacts a kind of revenge on his "creator" by playing the elderly Mark Twain, "river pilot and raconteur," at a riverside amusement park.

The philosophical and literary musings are inventive, and Lock manages to make the combination of brevity and tall-tale looseness mostly work. But for all its charms, the book ultimately seems pretty diffuse.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-934137-76-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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