Not a typical ghost story but a young woman learning about love, camaraderie, and self-identity —and possibly a spirit.

The Habitant

A NOVEL

From the The Habitants series , Vol. 1

A college freshman’s job at the campus library comes with new eccentric friends, creepy strangers, and perhaps a ghost in this debut supernatural tale.

With her mom suddenly unemployed, University of Oklahoma student Sarah Felton offers to get a position to help out with expenses. She applies at the library, where the circulation supervisor, impressed by her impromptu interview, hires her. It’s a rough start; her introduction to patron Dr. Patty Nakamura, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, consists of the woman declaring Sarah’s Pakistani co-worker Lubna a terrorist. But soon Sarah forms friendships with Lubna and student security guard Stanley and something a little more than friendship outside the library with nerdy but winsome Adam. Stanley is particularly unusual, a Native American descendent of shamans who claims he can see auras and ghosts— and that spirits sometimes roam the library. That may include Bernie, a woman evidently taking up residence there. It seems she’s something other than human, floating around the stacks and invisible to everyone, or at least most people. Bernie finds a connection to Sarah and may become what Stanley would call a spirit guide. Unable to speak with words, Bernie tries to communicate with Sarah through feelings. She hopes to warn the freshman about a guy Bernie’s dubbed TC, for The Creep, with a penchant for tampering with elevators and a sinister plan in the works. The novel is a drama first, giving a wide berth to genre conventions. The author, for example, smartly keeps Bernie ambiguous; Sarah proposes that the woman could be an alien, while Bernie herself isn’t sure—there’s no inkling of any sort of past. Sarah, meanwhile, is wholly engaging simply as a 19-year-old student. She hasn’t quite recovered from her dad’s death from lymphoma and worries about her blossoming romance with Adam after witnessing roommate Jennifer’s failed relationship. Readers anticipating spookiness may be dispirited: Bernie’s unequivocally amiable, TC’s unnerving but not outright scary, and Sarah and pals discuss but never investigate spirits. Sarah’s open-mindedness and endless curiosity, however, make her a perfect guide for readers into a world beyond tangible perception—even if it’s largely speculative.

Not a typical ghost story but a young woman learning about love, camaraderie, and self-identity —and possibly a spirit.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9969514-0-1

Page Count: 248

Publisher: PWM Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2016

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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