Meredith’s coming-of-age novel tells the story of a young woman who, in the wake of her mother’s death, befriends a couple of small town outsiders with whom she forms an important bond.

Taking place primarily in 1968 Mississippi, the book starts and finishes 40 years later with a reunion of friends. After their mother’s death from cancer, 15-year-old Kate and her younger sister, Martha, are left by their father to live with their grandparents in a trailer park in Pascagoula, Miss. After years of nursing her mother and taking care of her emotionally fragile sister, Kate has a pessimistic, world-weary outlook on life. Debut novelist Meredith sensitively, but unflinchingly, portrays the horror that might impact a young girl as she watches her mother die. Kate meets another injured soul in Tom Carmody, whose brother has returned from Vietnam a paraplegic. Tom also carries the secret of his homosexuality. Kate and Tom forge a deep friendship and are joined by Claire, the daughter of the town’s resident communist. Meredith deftly maneuvers between the growing friendships and the turmoil and violence of 1968 America. Tom, Claire and Kate’s adventures to New Orleans and a rinky-dink circus on the outskirts of town expose Kate to the wonders and excitement of life. But Kate’s awakening is squashed by an accident that damages Martha in such a way that the sisters’ lives are never the same. Soon after the accident, Kate and Martha’s father returns to take them away from Pasacagoula and the family of friends that Kate has formed. After 40 years, Kate still takes care of Martha, who, despite being unable to live on her own, has become a successful artist. Kate receives a desperate message from Tom, whom she hasn’t heard from for decades, pleading with her to visit. In the days proceeding Hurricane Katrina, the sisters set off on an adventure, returning to Tom and Claire and setting in motion the resolution and change that Kate has needed to finally get on with her life. A compelling, beautifully written novel that is an intimate portrayal of friendship and redemption. 


Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615506371

Page Count: 332

Publisher: La Sirene

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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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