A noteworthy baddie and a well-defined power give this otherworldly tale distinction.



Two centuries-old lovers capable of occupying others’ bodies stumble on a few people with the same ability, including one who proves menacing, in this supernatural novel.

Peter Ebersole’s pancreatic cancer means he has mere weeks to live, at least in his current body. He and his lover, Miriam, met nearly 700 years ago and can both inhabit, or ride, other people’s bodies. They carefully select hosts with few familial ties, as they’re essentially stealing the individuals’ lives. Sporting fresh, younger host bodies, Peter and Miriam, now the Hoffmans, start anew in Birmingham, Alabama. Though the couple have secured a substantial nest egg, Miriam gets a job at a PR firm. As riders are rare, she’s surprised when she discovers that two others at the firm have the same talent. But while assisting with a fundraising dinner for the growing American Values Party, Miriam and a rider co-worker spot another of their kind. (Riders can identify their own when their “original faces” are reflected in mirrors.) Unfortunately, this particular rider, Anwar, with a significant link to AVP, sees them as well. Since he considers both a threat, he initiates a plan to eliminate them. Brown (A Stone of Hope, 2015, etc.) raises the stakes by clarifying that Peter and Miriam are vulnerable: If the host body dies before the rider jumps to another one, the consequences are fatal. Anwar is an exceptional villain; the backstory reveals he had ridden the body of an infamous historical figure of the 20th century. In the present day, he’s using his AVP association to stir up trouble in the U.S. The author fortifies the narrative by addressing this special ability’s moral implication: Taking another body effectively ends the host’s life. And a rider may choose death over jumping to a person who has children. Abundant dialogue helps the story pop, especially when it’s satirical: After someone notes Miriam’s age is 700, she specifies that she’s “really only” 680.

A noteworthy baddie and a well-defined power give this otherworldly tale distinction.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73257-760-2

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Ingram Spark

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2018

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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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