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

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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