Compared with other grieving families in literature, the Wards don’t plumb the depths of their emotions, but they...

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TO LEAVE A MEMORY

A wife reconsiders leaving her stagnant marriage when her husband suffers a stroke, and the family must band together despite long-harbored resentments.

It’s been 30 years since the Wards’ beloved son died in a car crash, but the grief has remained. Their communication stunted, their sex life gone, Lizzy Ward and her husband, Andrew, a retired professor, have whittled their marriage down to merely orbiting around each other. Even their daughter, Jane, now married with three kids and a busy schedule, notices her mother’s unhappiness. On the night Billy died, Andrew had given him permission to go out, despite a terrible storm and Lizzy’s premonition that something would happen; for this, Lizzy has never forgiven him. She confides in Ouisie, her best friend from church, about wanting to leave the painful marriage. But while working on his historical novel about the Wards’ ancestors, Andrew suffers a severe stroke. Lizzy then can’t imagine leaving him alone in the hospital, let alone walking out on their marriage. Andrew’s brother and sister are summoned, straining their already distant relationship as a family. There are often long flashbacks to Andrew’s childhood, showcasing his mean brother and kid sister. He begins to recover from the stroke, although his verbal dyspraxia has him spitting curse words and bumbling names. Lizzy, as his caretaker, warms to him again, and their relationship reblooms. Andrew returns to his novel, which is presented as a story within a story. He suffers another stroke, and Lizzy, Jane and others are prompted to bring forgiveness to the forefront of their family. From the opening chapters, the axis of the novel seems to be the loss of their son, but as the novel goes on, it seems that other experiences are influencing the characters. Readers never quite get to the heart of what ailed Andrew before his strokes; despite vivid flashbacks to his brother’s cruelty, it’s unclear why they’re part of the novel. Secondary characters play well alongside Lizzy and Andrew, evident in Jane’s flirtatious banter with her husband and Ouisie’s role as the giggling friend. There’s a pleasing amount of healthy talk about sex, although jokes of a sexual nature, and Andrew’s sailor mouth, are sometimes stale comic relief. Yet the colorful dialogue keeps the story moving, sidetracked occasionally by the extensive novel-within-a-novel and many childhood flashbacks. Forgiveness comes in moments sentimental but tender, and even Andrew’s poststroke syntax has a chance to shine.

Compared with other grieving families in literature, the Wards don’t plumb the depths of their emotions, but they nevertheless provide a warm portrait of a family coming together to forgive.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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