DR. NERUDA'S CURE FOR EVIL

Gripping, deep-delving psychological novel that offers a new path in analysis but can't sustain the melodrama implied in its title. Intelligent, straightforward storytelling and brilliant characterization mark each Yglesias novel. Enriched by a powerful spiritual fantasy, 1993's Fearless asked the reader how he'd act if he returned from death stripped of every mortal fear. The author's latest never steams death's mirror as strongly but does remain taut and adult while asking, Can psychiatry provide a cure for evil? The answer hangs on the inspired agility of Dr. Rafael Guillermo Neruda, once a wonderchild like Yglesias himself (who published his first novel at 16). Neruda is a well-known, respectably published child psychiatrist who runs a New York clinic for abused children. His own childhood was marked by incest and violence, a mother who bedded him as a little boy and later immolated herself, and a supremely narcissistic, demanding father of Spanish background, against whom young Rafe testified. Now, Rafe's life begins to change when he accepts Gene Kenney, a wimpy, abused, disruptive teenager, as a patient. Rafe dislikes him but treats him for over a decade. Eventually, Gene becomes head of R&D for a successful, heartless computer manufacturer. But when Rafe strips him of his last neurotic defense, the liberated but defenseless Gene can't bear his calamities and escapes through murder/suicide. This personal ``failure'' propels Rafe into hiring out as a consultant to Gene's computer company and attempting a groundbreaking cure of its ``evil'' owner and his icy, man-eating daughter, both of whom have suffered childhood trauma similar to Rafe's own. His treatment will both succeed and fail. No sentence by Yglesias is particularly memorable; it's his analysis of power and sex that draws one on. Unlike Fearless, this is not a story one lingers over. But the strong plot keeps us fascinated and reading. (Film rights to Twentieth Century Fox; author tour)

Pub Date: July 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-52005-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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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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