A sometimes-dark but always buoyant novel of life beyond motherhood and family.

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SKYLARK

A NOVEL

A pleasant tale of family and one woman’s quest to live a fulfilled life.

Billie May Worthington is juggling twin toddlers on a remote island. The novel is largely concerned with how she got there. Quickly, the story jumps back in time, with Billie, the Midwest-born girl living in the U.K., about to embark on an exciting literary career following graduation. She’s Type A, a planner who doesn’t like to leave things to chance, but all that’s about to change when sexy artist-cum-architect Evan Skylark enters her life. Evan’s charm and prowess win over Billie quickly. Before she knows what hit her, she’s agreeing to move with Evan to Paris, where a dream job waits for him with Architecture Sans Limites. Life in Paris is romantic for the pair, and the circumstances they find themselves in drip with bohemian charm. While Evan puts in long hours at the office, Billie devotes herself to the written world. She’s a writer, though she feels funny calling herself that until she’s got a published book. Nevertheless, she presses on. Things seem idyllic in Paris, but before long, the fairy tale comes to a crashing halt. Billie May and Evan are forced to return to the U.K., where they spend some time tending the land and animals at a remote farm owned by Billie’s stepfather. A fortuitous job offer takes the Skylarks from one hard-to-reach island to another. The twins aren’t far behind. Motherhood, career, and literary ambitions take on a whole new character on the South Pacific island of St. Cloud. Morgan’s quaint tale offers much in the way of escapism, with hints of a darker side, particularly with Evan’s drinking. Settings are richly described, and the colorful characters offer old-world charm and rambunctious energy. Though events can sometimes take a harrowing turn, the stakes never feel particularly grave. The reader feels that, for Billie, one way or another, things will always work out for the best.

A sometimes-dark but always buoyant novel of life beyond motherhood and family.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-473-28918-8

Page Count: 438

Publisher: Lucky Arbuckle Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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