With the exception of vivid erotic scenes, this one’s a wash.



In this first novel, high-school friends Maize and Robbie attempt sex, but Robbie has much to learn about his sexual identity. They drift apart until a chance meeting brings them back together as fast friends who entrust one another with every detail of their lives.

Everything, that is, except the crush Maize had on her high-school counselor, which amounted to nil but about which she continues even as an adult to obsess. Then there was a sexual escapade with the man who conducted a college-entrance interview. Robbie’s only lapse in full disclosure is the loss of his virginity to a male college professor who turned resentful after Robbie ended it. Robbie visits his divorced father in Italy, where he wanders aimlessly and tails his father’s new woman, imagining she’s cheating on his dad. Then it’s back to New York to his internship at a paper, where he rues his underpayment and lack of respect from the staff, due, he believes, to his elevated tastes and lack of hipness. Maize, meanwhile, submits to demeaning on-the-job treatment from her abusive realtor boss while she pines for a red-headed musician co-worker. When Maize catches her boss stealing from clients, he fires her. Robbie and Maize are caricatures, filling pages with adolescent, naïve meditations on love and life, which Maize scribbles furtively in her diary while imagining the professional writer she’ll one day become. Hapless analogies provide unintentional comedy in the overall aimless text: “his amber-colored mustache furrowed and lifted like an alert.” “He was paralyzed the way someone having a stroke is suddenly paralyzed.” Robbie comes to see that his father isn’t as bad as he thought, and even his mother, bitter throughout, experiences a last-minute change of heart, but these tacked-on transformations only add false sentimentality to the mix.

With the exception of vivid erotic scenes, this one’s a wash.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-17697-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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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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