Sad and discouraging for anyone holding out hope for that part of the world.



War-wracked Beirut in the days just before the Israeli invasion is the setting for this bitter novel, the author’s debut, about the death of friendship and the death of a small nation.

Most Americans have probably forgotten the rotten mess engendered by sectarian hatred in Lebanon in the 1980s, but they will quickly recognize the carnage and savagery laid on in this harsh small story—it’s just like today’s war, and just as awful. Bassam, the narrator, and George, nicknamed De Niro, are two young Christians practicing some not-very-serious crime and trying to get dates in their Christian neighborhood, where the water has largely stopped running and the electricity is fitful. Bassam’s father is dead and George’s father vanished early on, and the neighborhood men have been sucked into the sectarian militias that are engaged in constant battle for control of the little country where Muslims and Christians used to coexist in commercial harmony. George is the more serious of the two, a little older, a little more thoughtful and a little more mysterious. Bassam, even when the bombs and shells are dropping, has his mind on the possibilities of sex, either with George’s sexy aunt Nabila or with Rana, a young neighborhood beauty. As the war continues, so does the disintegration of their old life. Bassam’s mother dies, forcing him to lurch painfully into adulthood. And it becomes clear that George has become entangled with the local warlord and will be ever more involved in the bloody civil war. The political and personal situation gets worse when the Israelis invade and George becomes a fatal part of the war’s darkest hour. In the book’s final third, Bassam flees to Paris with orders from Nabila to find George’s father, a search that will reveal new tragedies.

Sad and discouraging for anyone holding out hope for that part of the world.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-58195-223-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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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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