A diverse, ambitious tale of the 1960s.

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RETRIEVING ANGELS

A series of vignettes reveals the inner lives of a group of teens—and a few adults—over a tumultuous summer in Cimadori’s second novel.

In 1962, 10-year-old Gina Fontana is attacked and raped by a pedophile in his car; she’s saved when an old woman, whom local children call a witch, pulls the man off of her. The woman calls her a hussy and sends her home. Gina’s mother doesn’t want to call the police for fear of ruining her daughter’s reputation, and Gina later feels guilty when three other girls are raped and murdered in the Miami area. As the nation goes crazy in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Gina’s discovery of the Beatles keeps her from completely losing herself, as does her habit of writing in a journal. In 1967, Gina is 15, and she and her classmate Darlene, her childhood friend Manny, Native-American Miccosukee teenager Jeff Tiger, and older New York teen Sharon, among others, experience a summer that changes all their lives. Jeff confesses his feelings for Gina, and with his help, she’s finally able to face her childhood demons. After Darlene is caught having an affair with her mother’s married boss, she runs away from home. Manny, who wants his family to finally move on from his brother’s death, inadvertently discovers dark family secrets, and Sharon, after giving her hippie sister money for an abortion, makes choices about her own sexuality. There’s no overarching plot here; the hints that Gina’s rapist will be brought to justice fall by the wayside, and life goes on for the characters much as real life does, unresolved and unfinished. Overall, the vignettes concern themselves heavily with sex and sexuality, and the characters do grow and develop, revealing their complexity against the backdrop of the chaotic late 1960s. This isn’t quite a cohesive novel, as it offers little in the way of closure for the reader, but it does follow the characters through to satisfactory conclusions.

A diverse, ambitious tale of the 1960s.

Pub Date: May 29, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 277

Publisher: Book Baby

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2014

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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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