Rash’s oneness with the region and its people makes an indelible impression.

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NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

STORIES

Traps are embedded in the violence-streaked stories that comprise another fine collection from Rash (The Cove, 2012, etc.). 

Take the excellent opening story: "The Trusty." That’s Sinkler, the unshackled member of a chain gang in the North Carolina mountains (Rash’s invariable setting). While fetching water for the gang, the accomplished grifter sweet-talks a farmer’s young wife into eloping. She knows the hidden trails, and that’s where the tables are turned, violently. In the title story, two petty criminals, hooked on pills, steal some gold teeth. They’re about to cash in, home free, but we know they’re trapped losers, sure to be busted. There’s an actual trap, a bear trap, in "A Sort of Miracle," the story of three knuckleheads on a mountainside. The unseen bear springs the trap and gets the ham, but the trapper dies as the black comedy intensifies. Of these 14 stories, it’s the two from the Civil War era that will haunt you. In "Where the Map Ends," two runaway slaves are heading into the mountains, where many of the whites are Lincoln supporters. How could they have known that the farm where they shelter belongs to a man unmoored by his wife’s suicide, slipping into madness? He helps the older slave but has a horrifying end in mind for his young mixed-race companion. In "The Dowry," the war is eight months past. Ethan fought for the Union. Now, he seeks to marry the daughter of a Confederate colonel, implacable since losing a hand on the battlefield. The story ends with a second severed hand. Also notable are "The Magic Bus," a ’60s story in which a naïve country teenager has her disastrous first encounter with hippies, and "A Servant of History." Here, a very green Briton, researching ancient ballads in 1922, traps himself on a remote farm by bragging about his half-remembered Scottish ancestors. What had started out lightly satirical turns very grim indeed.

Rash’s oneness with the region and its people makes an indelible impression.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-220271-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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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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