FLAVOR OF THE MONTH

In The First Wives Club (1992), Goldsmith was like a dog with a bone on the subject of rotten husbands; in her second novel, she's latched onto another theme that's almost as meaty: Hollywood, which she masticates with characteristic wicked glee. This twisted tale is about three women who become megastars- -thanks to a TV show featuring a trio of dolls adventuring through the Sixties on motorcycles. They are: gorgeous, smart, and talented Jahne Moore, who used to be chunky, ugly Mary Jane Moran before she hired a surgeon to take the scalpel to her; Sharleen Smith, who flees a Texas trailer park after her brother kills her abusive father; and Lila Kyle, daughter of a Joan Crawford-like star who grows up to be as vicious as her mommie dearest. The three are like spitting cats during production, and when Jahne lands a movie Lila wanted, things get worse, with Lila hiring a p.i. to get the dirt on her costars. Meanwhile, Jahne has reclaimed the guy who dumped her back in her Broadway gypsy days; but when he learns about her surgery scars, he turns her big film debut into a porn show by hiring a double to do a graphic sex scene that Jahne knows nothing about until she sees the final cut. And poor Sharleen isn't happy in L.A.—particularly when her long-lost mother shows up permanently hitched to a bottle of booze. The dirt on Jahne and Sharleen hits the rags eventually, and it looks as if Lila will walk away the winner—until she gets snagged in a sordid secret of her own. Goldsmith runs amok in Hollywood—and bores for about two hundred pages in the middle—but at the close, she pulls out all the stops, redeeming herself in a wild, over-the-top way. On Hollywood, Thomas Tryon is more touching, and Nathanael West more literate—but no one can touch Goldsmith for gusto.

Pub Date: May 31, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-79449-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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