Margaret Mitchell it’s not, but Cooper’s sometimes tender tale of love and confusion is a pleasure to read.

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PURPLE JESUS

A lively redneck romance with out-of-the-headlines currency.

Purvis Driggers isn’t what you’d call the most solid of citizens in the swampy South Carolina lowlands. Not yet 30, he thinks like a codger. He also swears with the avidity of a heretic and the fluency of a poet, and Cooper (Humanities/College of Central Florida) adds much entertainment value to an already entertaining tale with the blasphemies of Purvis and his trailer-park coterie: “Jesus’ striped ass!” “Baby Jesus in a biscuit.” “Oh, Jesus on a root.” An accidental encounter with Aristotle has smartened Purvis up a touch (“I’m mostly a blunt tool,” he remarks, “but sometimes I can be sharpened up. Ockham the Razor.”), but he’s still a chump. As Cooper’s picaresque tale opens, Purvis is smack in the middle of a breaking-and-entering job that goes wrong from the start, and that convinces him that there’s a G-man in his future. Purvis is not just paranoid but also lovelorn, for out in the tangled woods he’s seen his siren, a sturdy, desperate woman by the sonorous name of Martha Umphlett, and his heart has beaten differently ever since. Martha, for her part, would rather be anywhere but there; only a fantastically obese mother with failing health keeps her down on the farm. A triangle forms in the person of a hirsute monk who actually does think complete philosophical thoughts—and the situation even threatens to square up by the presence of a ghostly “green man” out in the woods. Things don’t quite work out as anyone expects, and besides, as will happen in small communities, there are unexpected genealogical mysteries to work out as well. But for all that, as well as for an explanation of the “purple Jesus” of the title, you’ll want to read Cooper’s rollicking tale, which has elements of the hero quest, echoes of ancient mythology and some resolutely modern moments of extreme violence.

Margaret Mitchell it’s not, but Cooper’s sometimes tender tale of love and confusion is a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-890862-70-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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