Rymer has drastically overextended himself. For a novel that covers, seamlessly, street demonstrations, surgery and much...

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PARIS TWILIGHT

An American doctor in Paris is confronted by a slew of mysteries in this slow-moving debut. 

Matilde Anselm has had a brilliant professional life and a dismal love life. After her sweetheart died in Vietnam, she became convinced she brought lovers bad luck and stayed resolutely single. Yet, at 50, she is a top cardiac anesthesiologist, in Paris to work on a heart transplant with an old colleague, the surgeon Willem Madsen. Who is the patient? Willem is as unforthcoming as Emil Sahran, the medical troubleshooter behind the assignment; Emil is a third-generation Parisian of Tunisian descent. A greater mystery looms. A French lawyer tells her the recently deceased Byron Saxe has left her his apartment. A mistake, surely; Matilde has never heard of Saxe, but she settles into the tiny space and discovers a concealed door leading to a seemingly deserted but magnificent suite. Next, the manager of a local restaurant hands Matilde an envelope addressed to Saxe, the first of many. While the streets of Paris are awash in demonstrations (it’s 1990, and an invasion of Iraq is imminent), Matilde becomes immersed in letters dating back 50 years. They describe a romantic love undone by the Spanish Civil War. Carlos, in Paris, is unable to help his young wife, Alba, and their baby, captured by Franco’s forces. What has all this to do with Matilde? Clue: She’s a foundling. It emerges the letters are being translated by a young American woman, sole inhabitant of the suite and a leading anti-war protester. Rymer expends so much energy assembling and disassembling these puzzles that he has none left over to nail the authenticity of Matilde and Emil or their sudden transformation into lovers. The end is a melodramatic swirl, juxtaposing the eventual surgery and the drama on the streets.

Rymer has drastically overextended himself. For a novel that covers, seamlessly, street demonstrations, surgery and much else besides, see Ian McEwan’s Saturday.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-11373-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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