An admirable tour de force of imagery and linguistic pyrotechnics, but the endless talk about passion eventually pours cold...

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BIRD

In this brief, fiercely erotic novel, a woman who appears enveloped in conventional domesticity clings to memories of the dangerously bohemian life she shared with her former lover.

The opening scene of graphic sadomasochistic sex with Mickey, her former lover, that Bird is dreaming, or perhaps remembering, is interrupted by a ringing phone that wakes her in the present. Rapturous if sometimes-troubling memories of Mickey continue to slam-dance into her daily routine. As the day unfolds, Bird gets her boy off to school, nurses the baby, gives breakfast to her husband—for whom she feels mildly irritated affection—and attempts desultory housekeeping. All the while, in nonlinear fits and starts, she relives her affair with Mickey: the unheated apartment in pre-gentrified Brooklyn; the “junk” they snorted; their violent sex; Mickey’s fall down an elevator shaft. Neither Bird’s pregnancy nor Mickey’s marriage proposal came to fruition. After taking a haphazard cross-country trip and meeting an even more degraded, desperate couple, Bird and Mickey returned to New York and broke up. While she remains addicted to the idea of Mickey and the squalid passion he offered, she is ambivalent. She loves her little boy and infant daughter with fierce maternal protectiveness. Although Bird enjoys losing herself in reveries of Mickey, she tells herself she doesn’t want her son to be like him or her daughter to love a boy like him too long. Given that Bird recently cracked a pelvis in childbirth, readers may wonder if the novel is actually a literary riff on postpartum depression. Holland (Swim for the Little One First, 2012, etc.) gives Bird’s past with Mickey a visceral immediacy but keeps her present life in New England abstract and slightly out of focus.

An admirable tour de force of imagery and linguistic pyrotechnics, but the endless talk about passion eventually pours cold water over the initial fiery energy, turning a novel about heightened emotions into a trudge.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61902-564-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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