DREAMLAND

BOOK ONE

A chance incident brings racial and marital tensions on Long Island to a head in this first installment of a debut series.

Former golf wunderkind Buddy Graves never planned to return to his old club as a caddy at age 32, but the recession had other ideas. Now he’s just trying to hold fast to his lovely nurse wife, Dana, while watching his neighborhood crumble in the housing bust. Then it happens: a 7-year-old girl who lives next door slips innocently into Buddy’s bathroom, he hustles her outside, a cell phone camera snaps and one Tyrell Walker embarks on a twisted crusade for “Webtribution” and racial justice. But that’s not Buddy’s only problem. Dominating the country club scene is Izzy Weinberg, nursing home baron, and his still-sexy wife, Elaine, with whom Buddy enjoyed a steamy flirtation on the links years ago. Izzy harbors Carnegie-style railroad dreams, boozes up Chinese business partners and keeps a smart young assistant working late under his covers. The web tightens when Dana joins a health task force investigating Izzy’s empire, and then her muckracking blogger gal pal posts a damning photo of a black activist professor—with connections to Tyrell—in company of the wrong color. So unfolds this smartly structured soap opera that adroitly lampoons our postmodern smugness. If we really want to explode stereotypes of rich Jews, femmes fatales, Asian power brokers, radicalized black brothers and white jocks whose lives crashed long ago, why not throw them together for high stakes and watch the sparks and clichés fly? Gritty vernacular rules the book, with heavy doses of ghetto talk and enough N-bombs and F-bombs to supply a platoon. The women seem a tad interchangeable, but they serve just fine as beautiful causes that launch men to insane states of desire. And sometimes, of course, ambition really is a bitch. At least one dream gets reborn at the novel’s end, with further complications and unsavory revelations promised in book two. Bring it on. A cleverly threaded melodrama with a raunchy style and enough secrets, sex and culture clashes to keep the pages turning.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463606312

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more