Thoughtful and introspective, with a pulse-quickening conclusion.

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SEEKING GLORY

A NOVEL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, LOSS, AND FINDING YOUR WAY HOME

In Shook’s debut novel, a mother uncovers secrets about her estranged daughter’s mysterious life.

Kate LaRue’s peaceful, independent routine as a boutique owner in Cape Cod is shockingly interrupted when she receives a phone call about her daughter, Ally. It’s been 10 years since Ally turned 18 and ran away from home, cutting off all contact with both of her parents. Now she’s dying in a hospital bed of sepsis from a ruptured appendix. Kate races to San Francisco just in time to see her daughter before she passes away, and she learns that Ally had a daughter of her own. Four-year-old Glory is an unusually grave, almost nonverbal child, which her doctors say could indicate a disability or the effects of a traumatic experience. With little but a birth certificate and a few photos found in Ally’s apartment, Kate sets out to discover what happened to her daughter during the time she was missing—to find closure for herself and to discover any information that could help her grandchild. Shook captures the rhythms of life in Cape Cod with rigorous detail, from the tourism and traffic patterns to the beauty of the oceanfront and unpredictability of the elements. She takes time to appreciate the scenery: “The Nantucket Sound, sparkling blue and green in the sunlight, rolled in on soft waves that broke over wet sand turned brown from the lapping water, and then retreated just as quickly.” Kate’s methodical pursuit of answers is the greatest source of intrigue, building to a suspenseful, hair-raising conclusion. However, Shook also develops more commonplace but equally well-constructed subplots as Kate runs her business, navigates her relationships with family and friends, bonds with Glory, and comes to terms with her daughter’s death. Kate’s love for her home, her shop, and her newly found granddaughter make her an endearing character. Furthermore, the author’s professional background as a psychologist gives the work depth and credibility.

Thoughtful and introspective, with a pulse-quickening conclusion.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4787-9204-8

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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