A quirky but barely comprehensible novel.

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CRAZY-PENNY

DIZZY WORLD

Taillefer tells the story of man whose lucky coin starts to talk in this debut novel.

After gambling in a casino, Jason is left with little more than his lucky penny. Sulking at a bus stop on the way home, he throws the coin away only to watch as a rogue bolt of lightning strikes it in midair: “The whole city had feebly brightened a short fraction of time....Once on the ground, from a brazed cherry red to dark rusty oxidized, the coin cooled quickly as the wet pavement underneath helped cooling.” Jason retrieves the penny and soon realizes that it’s been altered and can now speak. Somehow, the spirit of a man named Norman is inside the coin and Jason can hear everything that he says. After a requisite get-to-know-each-other period, Jason and Norman go back to the casino. They plan for Norman to enter the slot machines and hack them in a way that guarantees Jason a big win. However, their winnings draw unwanted attention—and Jason realizes that his talking penny may be more trouble than he bargained for. The novel uses a peculiar idiolect that frequently abandons the rules of standard English: “Jason alleviated fast from his sickness of hurls. His faculties climbed high enough as he felt like moving, vertigo faded consciously.” At times, the prose is lyrical and evocative, and the author may have intended it to be a Joycean experiment in syntax and grammar. However, the experience is more often akin to reading something produced by poor translation software. The book’s premise, though fantastical, is not one that lends itself to such experimental language, which renders the already extraordinary situation far more confusing than it needs to be. The text is so difficult to navigate that many readers may not make it all the way to the end.

A quirky but barely comprehensible novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1460250228

Page Count: 376

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

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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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