ANDORRA

A precise, unsettling (if somewhat overlong) study of loss and duplicity. Cameron, the author of several well-received novels (The Weekend, 1994, etc.) and story collections (Far Flung, 1991, etc.), sets this terse work in the tiny country of Andorra, a mountainous, pocket-sized nation wedged between France and Spain. Alex Fox, his disaffected narrator, arrives there fleeing some at first unspecified horror, and finds the carefully ordered, slightly eccentric society of Andorra to be both enticing and soothing. He falls in with the Dents, a handsome, charming Australian couple who, separately, set out to seduce him. And he in turn begins to pursue the beautiful, hesitant Jean Quay, a young woman who seems to be locked in a constant struggle to suppress some disturbing incident in her past. Cameron deftly introduces a grim subtext to Alex's amours: The bodies of several men, strangled to death, wash up on a nearby beach. Ricky Dent disappears, and his frantic wife and a coolly charming policeman both wonder whether Alex has had something to do with it. Dent reappears but, convinced that he will be arrested for the murders, flees. Alex, who had come to Andorra looking for the solace of anonymity, allows himself to drift into an affair with the not-terribly-distraught Mrs. Dent and to entertain the idea of settling down with Jean. But things quickly go wrong. Alex, protesting his innocence, becomes the police's prime suspect in the murders. He isn't guilty, but an even more horrendous crime in his past spurs him to attempt to flee. That crime is revealed only at the last, and Cameron does a very deft job of gradually peeling away the seeming charm of the place and its inhabitants to uncover some nasty secrets underneath. While the pace occasionally lags toward the climax, Cameron's sly, complex characters, wonderfully intelligent dialogue, and masterful pacing combine to create a cumulatively powerful tale of the unforgiving workings of fate. (First printing of 25,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-10505-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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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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