TEX AND MOLLY IN THE AFTERLIFE

Dead hippies save the Maine forest in a shamanistic fable only a New Age devotee could love, though followers of Arthurian and magical fantasies may swell the readership. Pot-smoking Tex and Molly, middle-agers who live on a houseboat in Cold Bay (off Dublin, Maine), get high, accidentally fall down a hidden woodland well and, like Alice, wake up in wonderland. In this afterlife they're more alive than dead. Their astral surroundings are much like those in the material world, and Grant (Views from the Oldest House, 1989, etc,) has some fun with the differences (Tex must concentrate profoundly to make a cup of tea). The afterlife is peopled with prehuman spirits as well as with spirits imagined and given life by humans. Amusingly, Tex hides in an acorn that is eaten by a pregnant bear and then issues forth as a cub when the mother is shot; Molly's version of the afterlife, meanwhile, is less strongly drawn than Tex's and fits more into goddess mythology. As things move forward, Gene Deere, a plant geneticist with the powerful, tree-gobbling Gulf Atlantic corporation, wants to change the way trees are grown and to replant the forest with an ``unnaturally'' shaped tree that will be more energy-efficient to harvest. He falls in with Ludi, a sparkly young member of the late Tex and Molly's Cold Bay Street Players (they hold rites and dance around in animal masks to drive off bad treekiller vibes), who eventually leads him down the right path. When a Gulf Atlantic forest burn-off threatens to wipe out huge tracts, wily Tex, who has himself been hectoring the seemingly helpless dryads to unionize, invokes the greatest prehuman spirit of all, the Bishop of Worms, to save Dublin from becoming a wasteland. A between-worlds experience, in all, that Grant's facile fabulism robs of the force, beauty, and imaginative verve needed if an afterlife tale is to have a strong pull.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-380-97304-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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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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