A lively, religious science-fiction tale.



A short parable about the Christian faith.

Sills presents a debut novella that’s half Mere Christianity and half Animal Farm. Readers meet a humble, unassuming “zrog” named Surooval as he hops around on his home world of Anthrogor. He soon encounters none other than Jiminy Cricket. (Sills appends a note about the character’s appearance in the 1940 Disney film Pinocchio but offers no explanation for his appearance here.) Jiminy assures Surooval that he’s on a path to Heaven—a declaration that’s confirmed by the sight of angels flying in the beautiful sky. Jiminy says that he senses that Surooval has met the zrog Jethron, the messiah, whose message of love and brotherhood is universal; as a character later puts it, “We belong to the universe and know of how kind God’s love is.” Sills goes on to provide a fast-paced, simple narrative about a gathering of souls under the care and guidance of a Galactic Union, which is overseen by a kindly deity. As the hapless Everyzrog Surooval makes his way up the various levels of his faith, he meets ambassadors from other worlds, including a delegation of Venusians. Sills presents it all with good cheer and plenty of inviting dialogue. However, the story also has a cavalier attitude toward science; the Venusians, for instance, assure everybody that “here in Venus, the sun always shines upon the new and the young” even though the sun hasn’t shone directly on the real-life surface of Venus in about a billion years. There’s nothing resembling drama in these pages; readers simply follow Surooval along his pilgrim’s progress, always with the reassurance that “[t]here is a purpose and destiny for us all” and that “there is a Divine plan for you.” The various characters morph from one physical form to another as the story progresses, underscoring the narrative’s conviction that faith has many faces and that salvation is available to all peoples. An illustrated version of this tale would make for a fun discussion prompt for young Christian students.

A lively, religious science-fiction tale.

Pub Date: April 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1480909021

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: June 4, 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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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.


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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