MATING

Plaudits for the concept of a woman pursuing and getting her intellectual equal, but, here, gabby and relentlessly high-minded lovers turn Rush's first novel (after the story collection, Whites, 1986) into a meeting of true minds with too long an agenda. When a 30-ish unnamed American woman discovers that her anthropological thesis, which she had come to research in Botswana, is invalid, she decides to be ``hedonic, think passim about my life and next steps'' and ``repose in the white utopia Gaborone was.'' Which she does until she meets the legendary Nelson Denoon, guru of rural development, preacher of a third way for African countries, and rumored to be in charge of a distant village, Tsau, run by and for women. Intrigued by his brilliance and reputation, the woman sets off alone across the Botswana desert, nearly dying in the attempt but finally reaching Tsau. The village is the vehicle for Denoon's ideas about women (``Every female is a golden loom''), religion (religious buildings are banned in Tsau), education, solar power, and just about everything else. The love affair— exhaustively annotated and dissected all in the first person—is inevitable, and though they make agreeable love and though Denoon is all that he should be, it is the talk that matters—''I love your mind,'' she proclaims. They talk up a storm on everything from the ANC in South Africa to the anarchosyndicalists of Spain. But Tsau is not quite paradise—serpents exist, and Denoon himself changes after an accident in the desert, where he may have undergone a religious experience. Our heroine, disenchanted, returns to the US, but a mysterious message from Africa provokes her curiosity—she might venture another investigation of this most unusual man. In essence a love story, an unusual and credible one, with an exotic locale, and a colorful supporting cast; but the nonstop clever talk eventually provokes irritation rather than sympathy. A flawed novel of too many ideas, many good, but collectively too much.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-54472-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1991

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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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