Modern consumerism clashes with traditional Chinese culture, as observed by two cats in this small charmer.

CHINESE WHISKERS

Two cats in Beijing witness recent events—the SARS epidemic, rapid industrialization, the Olympic Games—from the comfort of their Hutong courtyard.

When Soyabean is still a kitten in the Xu household, he is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. A, waiguo Ren, or foreigners, who live in a large courtyard house in old Beijing. Soon after, Tofu arrives, a dustbin cat, rescued by the animal league and brought to the courtyard as company for Soyabean. The two cats have escaped a life of hardship in a country that regards pampered pets with suspicion, though with a rapidly growing middle class, that is beginning to change. Narrated in alternating chapters by Soyabean, a handsome, lazy ginger tom, and Tofu, a small dark cat who prefers the world from her perch in the courtyard’s pomegranate tree, the novel cat-walks between credibility and fantasy, just as these animal stories do. The cats understand human speech and other animals, and though their knowledge is limited, their intelligence isn’t; not unlike the way we view our pets anyway. Soyabean grows into a beautiful fat cat, so much so that he’s hired to star in a cat-food commercial. Soyabean’s already considerable ego (and girth) grows as he becomes a star for Maomi Deluxe. Tofu is suspicious, and rightly so; she overhears Xiao Xu confess that Maomi Deluxe is made from melamine, and cats are getting sick. One evening, Tofu is kidnapped by a band of rogues convinced cats are the cause of the SARS epidemic. She escapes the van and finds shelter with provincial laborers. Will Tofu find her way home? Will Soyabean be able to warn the nation about Maomi Deluxe? A gentle happiness abounds in this simple tale, set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing China.

Modern consumerism clashes with traditional Chinese culture, as observed by two cats in this small charmer.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-01448-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 41

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more