This work remains a striking world unto itself; a highly entertaining and thought-provoking read.



An author rolls several compact books into one.

Vaughan (Rift, 2015, etc.) divides his work into four sections: a set of flash fiction titled “Flashes/Balloon Darts”; a series of shorts with portraits evoking Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies called “Another Brick In the Wall/Hall of Mirrors”; experimental poetry inspired by female musicians labeled “Divas/Tunnel of Love”; and a segment of brief fiction named “Shorts/Ferris Wheel.” What these parts mostly have in common is Vaughan’s sense of character, the ability to reveal just enough about his creations to make them seem fully rounded, sometimes in just a few sentences. “Our First Date” is eight sentences spaced out on eight lines, but there’s so much to unpack. The twist comes in line four, when the narrator’s despair boils over because he can never see his children again. And by line eight, that emotion has been tamped down to polite agreement. No reason is given for the separation, whether it’s a legal matter or the children have died. The piece shows a remarkable range of emotions in what takes just seconds to read. The “Another Brick” series is charming, much in the vein of its muse. Vaughan is incredibly efficient at worldbuilding, and by the end of the section, it feels as though readers have gotten to know a community of kids, one for each letter of the alphabet. The “Divas” poems are evocative, each one starting out with a name, a birth year, and a set of lyrics and then delivering what feels like the author’s immediate reaction to the music. Sometimes words from the lyrics echo in poems, and repeated lines about rubbing off dead skin and being told not to hug emerge as readers work their ways through. Vaughan keeps readers guessing from section to section and piece to piece. He’ll follow the story of a relationship from courtship to engagement with a brief horror tale and, a few pages later, a one-paragraph singles ad.

This work remains a striking world unto itself; a highly entertaining and thought-provoking read.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9983090-1-9

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Unknown Press

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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