A short but sweet tale that arrives in a foreseeable place, but provides an enjoyable journey on the way there.

THE JUGGLER

In Farrara’s (The Royal Flush, 2012) latest fictional work, a former circus performer comes to terms with the successes and wasted opportunities of his youth when a reporter promises to thrust him back into the spotlight.

Clyde Herring is no longer the world-famous juggler he once was. His career with the Barrington Brothers Circus spanned from 1945 to 1989, and he was once a talented violinist and war hero, but now he lives alone in a shabby apartment in Reading, Pennsylvania. He never saved any money, nor did he ever marry or have children, although he did love someone once—Julie Pullman, now one of the richest and most successful women in the world. But the two haven’t seen each other in years, and the elderly Clyde has little else in his life, other than his daily routine and vodka. When it’s announced that the Barrington Brothers Circus is coming back to town, local sportswriter John Ryan gets the assignment to write a feature on Clyde. John’s goals are to increase publicity for both the circus and the newspaper, and to explore what Clyde has been doing with his life since 1965, when the paper published its first article about the juggler. Clyde later experienced a disastrous, drunken fall that ended his career and sent him into a downward spiral. The author deftly weaves together the threads of Clyde’s life, introducing bits of his past and present to reveal the consequences of the decisions he’s made over the years. The juggler isn’t the abject alcoholic that readers might expect, however. Instead, Farrara shows how Clyde brings a spark of cheerful humor to all of his interactions, balancing his melancholy with a refreshing self-awareness that will keep readers eager to see how his story turns out. Although the plot is a simple one, and often veers into predictability, it doesn’t make the juggler’s life story any less engaging.

A short but sweet tale that arrives in a foreseeable place, but provides an enjoyable journey on the way there.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1434937285

Page Count: 98

Publisher: Dorrance

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2014

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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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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

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