An impressive assortment of lithe, charming tales.




Life presents unexpected changes and romantic entanglements for characters populating this short story collection.

This book opens with “The Cow That Jumped Over the Moon,” in which Melvin and Doreen McCook move from Phoenix to Bethel, Colorado, to buy and run a movie theater. Unfortunately, the theater doesn’t make much profit, as it’s 1980, during the rise of home media. But things change after Melvin saves a cow at a cattle auction; his new bovine companion becomes a local celebrity who may draw some business. J.D. Carpenter is likewise struggling with his small-town newspaper in “Dusty Feet,” also set in Bethel. He ultimately comes to the aid of Kofi Abel, an Ethiopian in town, to find Pad Hornung. Kofi knows Pad from his missionary work. But Kofi inadvertently stirs up J.D.’s past, including his two failed marriages. Other characters face tribulations far from home. Winston, for example, of “The Call of the Russalki,” is isolated in the South China Sea for a site survey. He’s surprised when he sees another boat; according to the skipper, it’s a scientific expedition, which entails an unusual, all-female crew, each clad in bikini tops and shorts. This tale is followed by “Christmas in July.” In it, Mason Morrison is an American writer in London who starts volunteering at Lulworth Court, essentially a nonprofit holiday spot for the disabled. But what’s Mason to do when his fling with a volunteer becomes something more? Gore’s (Ghosting the Willamette, 2017, etc.) book is an appealing, often endearing collection of nine stories. The majority of the characters are immensely likable. Melvin is so worried about Doreen’s reaction to his cattle purchase, as they’re financially strapped, that he avoids her for as long as possible. He even names the cow Emma, after a beloved girlfriend who died in an auto accident decades ago. Similarly, young Orion of “Tutledge” is a junior ranger who keeps an eye on his town’s wooded area via his watch tower (in actuality, a hay loft). The author writes in an uncomplicated, grounded style that adds credibility to the characters and tales. For example, romance in “Christmas” is a combination of lyricism and mere observation: “They looked up at the clouds moving across the darkening sky, and at some point, her hand found its way into his.” This further applies to humor throughout the book as well as occasional hints of the otherworldly. Comedy comes in the form of largely familiar situations, such as the mother in “The Great Rabbit Round-up,” who embodies her typical anger by clomping around in her novelty pair of Dutch wooden shoes. Likewise, there are a few instances of something seemingly supernatural, but they are ambiguous and could be merely taking place inside characters’ heads. Serious topical issues do crop up in the stories, and Gore wisely doesn’t treat them mildly. The most notable of these is “Tick!” about a boy with an apparent mental disorder who deals with tactless neighbors.

An impressive assortment of lithe, charming tales.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984174-47-5

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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