A captivating novel that will transport readers back to prehistory times—while reminding them of their own.

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PROMISED VALLEY WAR

War erupts in a peaceful prehistoric valley.

  Tensions were already brewing in Fritsch's Promised Valley Rebellion (2010), in which a group of young people living in the relatively benign and loosely organized prehistoric community of Promised Valley rebelled against their king and his council in reaction to a seemingly arbitrary, tyrannical ruling the king had made. That rebellion revolved around the hidden past of Rose Leaf, the beautiful young daughter of war-hero farmer Green Field, and it led to war with the hill people whose marauding ways are a constant threat to the inhabitants of Promised Valley. In Fritsch's latest novel (which is given depth by a reading of the first book but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone book), despite the best efforts of that same group of young people, war between the valley people and the hill people has erupted again. The author’s well-rendered descriptions of the creeping onslaught of war and winter give the reader a visceral feel for the endangered paradise that can occur despite the best intentions of the best people, and readers will be surprised by the twists he gives his tale. Alongside the careful plotting and natural-sounding dialogue, there's a refreshing amount of deeper resonances in the Promised Valley series, a steady undercurrent of commentary of the present day. The treatment of the young hero Blue Sky's attraction to other men, for instance, is straightforward but nonconfrontational, and characters at several points grapple with their society's primitive theology. “Could gods who were good-hearted … allow humans to go to war with one another?” the narrative at one point asks. “[I]f they, like humans, had no choice in the matter, why did humans call them gods?” The novel will leave readers eager to find out what happens next in Promised Valley. Luckily, Fritsch has plans to add two more volumes to the series.  

A captivating novel that will transport readers back to prehistory times—while reminding them of their own.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615567297

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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