This is not one of this important writer’s best books; those are still Maps (1999) and Links (2004). But Farah knows his...



A woman “young of heart, strong of body, questionable of judgment, and yet unbending in her doggedness to set things in motion” dominates the prizewinning Somali author’s ambitious, accusatory tenth novel.

It’s set primarily in Mogadiscio, to which native Somalian Cambara returns from Toronto, whence she had emigrated to marry (a lawyer, Wardi), and where her son Dalmar, a victim of his father’s abuse, had died in a drowning accident. Grief-stricken, but stubbornly determined to recover her family’s home from the “minor warlord” who has appropriated it, Cambara reunites with her cousin (and former “putative husband”) Zaak, a drug-addicted underachiever who had returned home preceding her, and efficiently deflects the well-intentioned meddling of her formidable mother, Arda. In a bifurcated narrative that renders detailed flashbacks in past tense, present action in present tense, Farah depicts Cambara’s impulsive plunge into a civil-war–torn landscape, as she fends off possible rapists and thieves, forms bonds with freelance bodyguard Dajaal and his best friend, Bile (to whom she is instantly attracted), befriends two street boys (“armed youth” SilkHair and cryptic preadolescent Gacal) and, through the efforts of tireless, well-connected aid worker Kiin, enters into solidarity with the activist Women’s Network, which encourages her to write a play dramatizing their common plight: “Men are a dead loss to us, and they father wars, our miseries.” This book is both more and less than a feminist parable. Farah offers a powerful, unpleasantly convincing picture of a society in ruins, while lucidly portraying the efficacy of courage and ingenuity marshaled against chaotic forces of exploitation and violence. But Cambara is an unconvincing superwoman: physically imposing, brilliant, indomitable earth mother, creative artist—a veritable African Joan of Arc. Armed teenagers and warlords alike are no match for her.

This is not one of this important writer’s best books; those are still Maps (1999) and Links (2004). But Farah knows his troubled homeland intimately, and everything he writes commands respectful attention.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59448-924-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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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 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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