For young hipsters who can’t be bothered with coherence.



Life hammers in spectacularly messy fashion the adopted Third World daughter of showily dissolute Californians.

Written and laid out as if its relentlessly disaffected author were unable to switch off the outlining mechanism in her word-processing software (and who among us has not suffered that terror?), Newman’s supermodern tale of Chrysalis Moffat, Guatemala-born and southern-California reared, her hopelessly drug-, love-, and booze-wrecked brother Eddie, a.k.a. Jack, and Ralph, Eddie’s Tibetan Buddhism savvy English potter chum clicks restlessly back and forth through their appalling histories as they huddle in the mouldering mansion bequeathed Eddie by their late mum. As we join them, Chrysalis is in the throes of near-fatal depression, hunkered under her bed, assailed by random memories of her booze-soaked mother and her long-dead John Wayne look-alike father, a scientist for the CIA who brought her back as a toddler from one of his missions in Central America. Short and dark in the Mayan fashion, Chrysalis, though intelligent, never really fit into California life, and neither of the children was enough to jerk their mother out of her dependencies on chemicals or lust for the broad-shouldered father. Eddie arrives, Ralph in tow, as Chrysalis is close to death by starvation and looniness. Eddie is full of a plan to turn the mansion into a profitable school of Buddhist life management, a reasonable business plan for that part of the country. Chrysalis immediately swoons over Ralph, the relatively levelheaded son of a Romany prostitute whose addictions at one point took her to the Himalayas, where Ralph, amazingly engineered for survival, picked up fluent Tibetan. As the meditation center comes into shaky existence, the three lives are reviewed in flashback, revealing coincidental connections among their various parents and siblings, and the truth of Chrysalis’ actual parentage and the horrifying truth of her orphanage is revealed. Oh, and considerable useful information about the percentages of blackjack is shuffled in.

For young hipsters who can’t be bothered with coherence.

Pub Date: June 3, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-051498-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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