A soapy novel that strains credibility at times but still manages to tell a good love story.

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WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

A series of tragedies teaches one woman the difference between youthful passion and married love in Weinstein’s debut romance.

Jessica Parker is a spirited 16-year-old Angeleno living with her widowed mother and doing her best to hide her grief over her father’s death. While visiting the hospital where her mother works, Jessica meets 22-year-old Harvard medical student Jonas Levy and sparks fly. Jonas’ father, Adam, is dying of pulmonary fibrosis and his family is a fixture at the hospital that summer. Smitten with sexy Jonas and drawn to his close-knit family, she begins seeing him outside the hospital, despite the age difference—and despite Jonas’ long-term girlfriend, Emily. Jessica falls head over heels and Jonas seems to reciprocate, but when Adam dies, Jonas abruptly ends the fling. Her heartache lingers, but Jessica moves on to film school and an enviable job as a music supervisor with famous Hollywood producer Marty Tauber. They eventually marry and have a child, and Jessica finds fulfillment in her family and career until a tragic accident puts her marriage in jeopardy. During this period of uncertainty, an explosive secret is revealed and Jessica is unexpectedly reunited with Jonas. Unsure of Marty’s devotion and confronted with feelings she thought long buried, Jessica is forced to choose between her husband and the man she always considered the love of her life. Weinstein’s novel is a bit uneven, with the dilemmas Jessica faces as an adult proving more compelling than her teenage romance with Jonas. It requires considerable skill to depict young love with freshness, let alone to convince readers Jessica’s feelings are so extraordinary that even years later, after motherhood and a happy marriage, she would still take them as seriously as she did in adolescence. Unfortunately, the novel does not quite achieve these feats. The narrative is further weakened by Jessica’s penchant for maudlin flights of self-psychologizing instead of allowing readers to infer her feelings through her behavior. But the story’s twists and turns generate real tension, and Weinstein renders Jessica’s feelings with enough complexity that her ultimate decision carries emotional weight.

A soapy novel that strains credibility at times but still manages to tell a good love story.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466236318

Page Count: 328

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2012

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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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