Typical Ford: earnest, labored, only intermittently illuminated by vivid characters and convincing impressions of the...



Actually, it’s a single sin: adultery and its “multitude” of consequences, explored with varying success in this dour collection of nine stories and a novella, Ford’s third such, following Rock Springs (1997) and Women Without Men (1987).

The weakness of these stories (and Ford’s signal failing as a writer) is monotony. His characters almost all act and sound essentially alike. They’re guilty, evasive, self-justifying misbehavers. Yet this volume does attempt to work fresh variations on its potentially limiting theme: in an atypically tightly plotted vignette, for example, about an unfaithful wife’s confession, her stricken husband’s angry response, and the way she deals with him (“Under the Radar”); and in the novella “Abyss,” where an adulterous pair of realtors’ “business trip” to the Grand Canyon leads to a (totally unconvincing) melodramatic end. Elsewhere, Ford observes the breakup of a morose journalist’s affair with a married woman painter (“Quality Time”); a middle-aged man’s reminiscence of a duck-hunting expedition with his vagrant, cowardly father, who had abandoned the narrator and his mother for another man (“Calling”); and a Canadian woman who hires an actor to impersonate her husband, as a way of controlling her American lover (in the exquisitely titled “Dominion,” which is nevertheless flawed by coy indirect references to the “game” thus being played). Two stories rise above the general level of uninspired competence: a knowing revelation of the calculated innocence with which an adulterous ex-cop slowly destroys his wife’s impulse to forgive him (“Tom championed some preposterous idea for the sole purpose of having her reject it so that he could then do what he wanted to anyway”); and the superb “Puppy,” in which the unwelcome presence of a stray mutt exacerbates a complacent professional couple’s buried fears—until the unoffending creature becomes “a casualty of the limits we all place on our sympathy and our capacity for the ambiguous in life.”

Typical Ford: earnest, labored, only intermittently illuminated by vivid characters and convincing impressions of the variety of their lives.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-41212-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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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 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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