Morais writes with sensitivity and insight about the many ways American life challenges the Reverend Oda’s equanimity.

BUDDHALAND BROOKLYN

A gentle Buddhist priest from Japan is given the task of building a temple in the Little Calabria section of Brooklyn, and the results are both calamitous and sweet.

Before the move, Reverend Seido Oda had already lived a full and tragic life, having dealt with his father’s mental illness and his brother’s death by fire. He grew up in a remote and rural setting and, at the age of 11, was apprenticed to the monks in the Headwater Sect (a fictional creation of Morais) at a local Buddhist temple. Despite his personal and familial difficulties, for 30 years Oda lives a relatively placid life, until his superior requests that he travel thousands of miles to oversee the building of a new temple in the strange urban landscape of Brooklyn. Once there, Oda comes in contact with a very American form of Buddhism, one in which he’s casually referred to as “Rev” or “the Reverend O.” Oda understandably has difficulty adapting to the exigencies of his new life. He meets Laura, a shellacked blonde, who is into New Age crystals and “channeling the Buddha’s voice during evening prayer.” He also encounters Mr. Dolan, who’s been giving a series of lectures on Buddhism based in part on Buddhism for Dummies. The greatest surprise awaiting Oda is a relationship that he develops with Jennifer, whose casual demeanor belies an engaging intellect (she has a doctorate in Italian and has been translating Boccacio) and a sincere interest in Buddhist texts. They begin a sexual relationship that comes as a surprise more to Oda than to Jennifer. Oda finds he has to balance the delicacy of his feelings for Jennifer with his much more pragmatic connection to Mr. Symes, the hardheaded American businessman who’s a major fundraiser for the temple.

Morais writes with sensitivity and insight about the many ways American life challenges the Reverend Oda’s equanimity.

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6922-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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