Drugs rule, in another ho-hum study of contemporary anomie.

Dazed and bleeding, a guy stumbles along the California beach toward Malibu. He makes his way deliberately to an empty beachfront house and enters through the crawlspace and a wooden panel. This might be an okay hook, except there’s no follow-through. We return periodically to the guy in the house, but not until the end do we learn what brought him there. Instead, we get his history (most of it recent). His name is Hayward Theiss, he’s in his late 20s, and he’s just driven cross-country after breaking up with his girlfriend Helen, who’s been in and out of mental hospitals with an unspecified illness. Hay stopped off in Tucson to attend a concert of Kimmel’s, Kimmel being a songwriter/guitarist and Hay’s old college roommate: he has talent but also a bad attitude, willing himself to fail. Also at the concert is Will, who was in middle school with Hay back in 1980. Will is a freelance journalist with a book coming out, and he too is self-destructive (and enjoys needling strangers). As for Hay, he’s driving to LA to produce a show for public television about new American music. These three are the story’s principals, though none is well defined. Hay puts away astonishing amounts of liquor while the other two, Hay slowly realizes, have become heroin addicts. Nothing much happens, though every so often, first-novelist Brumbaugh, a music industry veteran, cuts away to memorialize Annie Oakley, the legendary sharpshooter and an old flame of Hay’s great-grandfather (and one of Brumbaugh’s ancestors). What a wrong move. The writing about Annie, based on the historical record, is clear and to the point, much in contrast to the foggy limbo inhabited by the present-day characters. Further, the remarkable Annie underscores the smallness of Hay, Will, and Kimmel, making it a case of Annie and the three dwarves. Eventually, there’s a drug-related death, and Hay emerges from that house.


Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-890447-39-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Open City

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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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 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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