RUNNING FROM SAFETY

AN ADVENTURE OF THE SPIRIT

New Age jargon bobs along amiably on stream-of-consciousness froth in this quasi-nonfiction indulgence by the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (not reviewed). While paragliding, Bach meets a ``teaching angel'' named Shepherd (get it?), who reminds the pushing-60 writer of a promise he made 50 years ago to Dickie, his nine-year-old inner child: to ``write a book to take back, just for the boy you were, everything you know.'' That book presumably is this one, a cross between a Socratic dialogue and the transcript of a schizophrenic's rant. Richard's discussions with Dickie about free will, fate, risk, and coincidence consist mainly of other people's warmed-over tenets presented as revelations. (Dickie speaks for weary readers when he shouts, ``THAT'S TOO MANY, RICHARD!...IF YOU SAY ONE MORE MAXIM I'M GOING TO POP!'') Much of the book is devoted to perusing Richard's messy mental scrapbook: Childhood was a desert, but at least Dad taught him to play chess. Why did brother Bobby have to die? (Leukemia.) Why did Richard succumb to peer pressure and drink beer as an adolescent? First marriage goes sour; thank heavens Leslie- -the patient, mint teadrinking second wife to whom Richard recounts what he learns—remains deep, mysterious, and challenging. The treadmill of rhetoric keeps turning as Dickie goes grocery shopping with Richard, wakes him up at night, and accompanies him in flight. In the paraglider, they achieve the ultimate insight: There's lots in life over which we have no control; sometime we must trust what we cannot see. Not much originality here, but at least the clichÇs feel universal. Bach tills fertile New Age ground, emerging with such self-helpers' delights as crystals and ``soul on a sunbeam.'' Either you buy it or you don't. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1994

ISBN: 0-688-12716-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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
  • 39

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?

more