ROXANNA SLADE

A lovingly detailed record of a long and seemingly modest life, given resonance by the prolific Price’s extraordinary language and his sharp eye for the subtle complexities of character (The Promise of Rest , 1995, etc.). Roxana Slade, born with the century, looks back from the near present over her long and (seemingly) uneventful life as a wife and mother in a small North Carolina town. While seeming to focus on the ups and downs of her marriage to the decent, somewhat stolid Palmer, and the lives of her son and daughter, she also creates a rich portrait of a community dragged reluctantly out of its venerable agricultural existence into the raucous modern world. She begins by loving Palmer’s younger brother, the handsome, flamboyant Larkin, until, in one of the tragedies that inevitably touch most lives, he dies in an accident. It’s only later that the quiet Palmer comes to her attention. Using a first-person narrative plays to Price’s strengths: Roxana’s language is frank, seemingly unadorned, but subtly colored both by a tart regional flavor and by a nicely idiosyncratic rhythm and pace. And her detailed portrait of an extended southern family over time reminds us of Price’s fascination with the decisive impact of the family, for good or ill, on individuals. There are appropriately dark scenes as well: Roxana, sinking into a bitter depression, briefly assaults her own daughter. And Palmer, though he is a devout and kindhearted figure, strikes his oldest friend in a fit of anger, blinding him in one eye. What emerges from Roxana’s unblinking recollections is a portrait of an affectionate woman who has learned to master her own anger, come to grips with her regrets, and who has drawn from the incidents of her life a hard-earned wisdom. Roxana is a memorable figure, and further indication of Price’s quiet, precise power as a novelist.

Pub Date: May 4, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-83292-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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