Frighteningly clever. The haunting landscapes Dorrestein creates are as real as they are darkly fantastical.

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THE DARKNESS THAT DIVIDES US

A family’s demise unfurls in the shadow of a mysterious murder.

Its first half narrated by a gang of bullies, renowned Dutch author Dorrestein’s (A Crying Shame, 2011, etc.) brooding story begins in an outwardly utopian setting—a respectable Dutch housing estate where neat bamboo gardens are tended and traditional family roles are filled without objection. However, “in the sea of maternal bodies” that comprise the matriarchs of the neighborhood, one girl’s mother stands out. “Gazing at her, you’d feel so happy and dreamy inside that you couldn’t believe she could seriously be somebody’s mother.” Six-year-old Lucy and her mother live on the periphery of the estate—with two male lodgers named the Luducos—in a home where happiness is freely inhabited and not dictated by what’s socially acceptable. As the kids in the neighborhood note in amazement, Lucy lives by her own rules. She “had sailed a pirate ship” and “spilled hundreds of glasses of orange squash, too, without any dire fallout.” But the tides change when a new family arrives and the son becomes Lucy’s boyfriend. When Lucy’s mother wants to leave the neighborhood, a storm, both literal and figurative, rolls in, leaving the boy’s father dead in its wake and Lucy’s mother pegged as the murderer. Sworn to never talk about what happened, Lucy recites the lines she’s fed about that night, leaving the particulars of the crime a mystery. From here, Dorrestein’s idyllic town sheds its civilities to reveal a menacing portrait of domestic harmony disrupted. With her mother in prison, Lucy is left in the doting care of the Luducos. But at school, she resolutely suffers merciless bullying as atonement for her sins. While Dorrestein’s writing is terrifically bleak at its best, the macabre is deployed shrewdly. When Lucy gains control of the narrative, moments of tenderness—like a heartening correspondence she maintains with her mother in jail—peek through. As Lucy fumbles through her adolescence, and eventually starts a new life with her family on a Scottish island far away, Dorrestein’s tale becomes less a murder mystery and more a disquieting reflection on how people construct their own versions of the truth.

Frighteningly clever. The haunting landscapes Dorrestein creates are as real as they are darkly fantastical.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64286-014-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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