Despite its specificity, this history is a small wonder, providing a fun but thorough look into one of Chicago’s greatest...

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999

A HISTORY OF CHICAGO IN TEN STORIES

This unique history centers on the prehistory, founding and residents of 999 Lake Shore Dr., an apartment building that symbolizes Chicago’s wealthy class.

Fizdale’s beautifully illustrated debut is a labor of love about his home, the architectural marvel 999 Lake Shore Dr. in the historic Chicago neighborhood of Streeterville. After catastrophic losses in the wake of the famous Chicago Fire of 1871, entrepreneurs and real estate watchers set their sights on the north side of the city, looking to build Lake Shore Drive, now a major thoroughfare on Chicago’s lakeside. Fizdale portrays the characters in those subsequent years: Potter Palmer, a visionary innovator of the department store, and George “Cap” Streeter, who schemed to create a land claim in Lake Michigan by allowing others to dump tons of garbage around his wrecked boat. Fizdale’s treatment of Streeter’s comic drama paints him larger than life, detailing his absurd machinations for stealing back “his” land, including the construction of a rudimentary tank out of a car, a small house and Gatling guns. Buoyed by the high quality of Fizdale’s research, Streeter’s story entertains immensely; at times, the book feels like the outline for a cable series, twisting and turning through Chicago real estate lore. Later, Fizdale’s vignettes of the many families that occupied 999 reveal a variety of human experience among wealthy Chicagoans. Each passage is a glimpse into a life among many, whether it’s someone who helped figure out how to remove sulfur from crude oil, a Rockefeller descendant who contacted her “spiritual bridegroom” via séance, or a tenant’s great-grandfather who died after gunpowder experiments went bad. Actors, socialites, gangsters, entrepreneurs and clerks all stayed there. Throughout, Fizdale’s humorous tone adeptly guides readers: “John [Kraft] processed, packaged and sold cheese. Then he did it again and again and again….Even wife June got into the act. She was a ‘cheese industry librarian.’ ” As Fizdale states in his introduction, “history never yields all of its secrets”; yet here we have a reconstruction that, though small in scope, uncovers the secret texture of life in another age. Numerous illustrations, maps, and black-and-white and color photos—taking up about as much space as the text—help enliven the work further.

Despite its specificity, this history is a small wonder, providing a fun but thorough look into one of Chicago’s greatest living spaces.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1467545280

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Ampersand Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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