Sketchy characterization and desultory writing don’t exactly fill in the blanks between sex scenes, and the college-lesbian...

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ALMA MATER

Twosomes and threesomes at an ivy-covered Virginia college, from the author of Rubyfruit Jungle (1983), etc., and the popular Sneaky Pie Brown mystery series.

Vic Savedge is a knockout and six feet tall to boot. She’s dating football player Charly Harrison, scion of a distinguished Virginia clan that even produced a president, much to her mother’s delight. The Savedge women are not above a little scheming when it comes to marrying well, and they have what it takes to do it right. Gorgeous Vic is a clone of her mother R.J., a black-haired, green-eyed beauty who gossips incessantly with her sister Bunny. They still believe that a woman is only as good as the man she’s with, much to Vic’s dismay. It may be 1980, but apparently they’ve never heard of feminism. Mother and aunt are determined to see Vic safely wed—especially now that R.J.’s feckless husband Frank has just lost most of the family money in the stock market. Vic has other things on her mind, like getting a job to pay her tuition and playing a little less lacrosse, even though she and best friend Jinx are the most important members of the team. But then she meets Chris Carter, a very pretty, very blond student from Vermont and is immediately attracted to her—and very confused by that attraction. Could it be that she’s . . . gay? Only a little sexual experimenting will tell, but juggling two lovers proves difficult. Fortunately, clueless Charly doesn’t even notice—until he and Chris and Vic end up in a hot threesome. Vic doesn’t know what to do. But why choose? “Why accept the world’s limiting structures?” She indulges in similar sophomoric musings about relationships, until a campus prank lands them all in hot water. Somehow, this inconsequential event helps them all grow up a little. End of story.

Sketchy characterization and desultory writing don’t exactly fill in the blanks between sex scenes, and the college-lesbian romance seems awfully dated—when not embarrassingly rapturous.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-345-42820-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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