Social work as satire: The harsh realities of prison life are noted briefly on the way to a formulaic (and rather...



A Wall Street whiz takes an insider-trading rap for her crooked boss and winds up in prison.

Jennifer Spencer is bright, beautiful—and behind bars. Her attorney fiancé, Thomas Branston IV, and Donald Michaels, the sharklike CEO of her financial firm, persuaded her to take the rap for Donald’s dirty deals and SEC violations, assuring her of a slap-on-the-wrist reprimand—and now she’s in the Jennings Correctional Institute for Women for three to five. It’s no country club, even though warden Gwen Harding is a sympathetic sort. Jennifer trades her Armani outfit for an orange jumpsuit, endures a body cavity search, and meets her fellow inmates: Movita Watson, a proud black woman serving a life sentence for slaying her abusive husband; thieving Cher McInnery, a hillbilly goddess from Arkansas; Suki, a fragile young woman convicted as accessory in a robbery, now pregnant by a guard who raped her; and Margaret Rafferty, a prep school headmistress found guilty of murdering her cheating husband. Jennifer soon understands that the name of the game is humiliation, not rehabilitation; and that no one is going to rescue her any time soon. But Lenny Benson, her firm’s mild-mannered accountant, has been digging into the records and uncovering all kinds of wrongdoing—though not evidence enough to spring Jennifer. A crisis looms when the prison is faced with privatization by JRU, a cash-poor business planning to use inmates as telemarketers. Aided by Margaret’s wheeler-dealer sons, Jennifer scotches the plan by on-line manipulation of JRU stock and arranging for a buyout of the undercapitalized company. With time off for good behavior, she’s soon a free woman, meting out punishment to Donald and Tom and wangling pardons for some of the other Pen Pals.

Social work as satire: The harsh realities of prison life are noted briefly on the way to a formulaic (and rather improbable) happy ending. Goldsmith (Bad Boy, 2001, etc.) has done better.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94644-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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