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

READ REVIEW

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more