Funny and beautifully structured to create anticipation and suspense, with lush moments of romance and a surprisingly sturdy...

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THE FLAMENCO ACADEMY

The author of five previous novels (The Yokota Officers Club, 2001, etc.) that center around romance, friendship, career, art, motherhood and personal appearance here writes compellingly of a love triangle.

The ménage à trois consists of best friends Didi and Rae, and the hunky hypoteneuse they fall for—Tomás, a flamenco guitarist. The setting is the American southwest, and the style is an incongruous but successful blend of the flippant and ultra-gorgeous romantic. The outrageous Didi, for example, describes the bonnet-wearing adherents of a cultish religion that Rae’s mother joins as “Amish wannabes.” Elsewhere, a besotted character describes Tomás by saying, “He is air and rain and golddust and all others are mud.” Rae is a shy, studious pale blonde; Didi is flamboyant, sexy, self-absorbed, ambitious and assured. The two meet when their fathers, dying of cancer, visit the same oncologist. Their mothers cope badly with their husbands’ deaths, and the girls have only each other. Their friendship is the strongest and best-realized portion of the novel. Didi is magnetic—the cool friend who idles through her shift at the Pup y Taco while sitting on an overturned bucket, pulls the best finds from the thrift-store rack, charges into the hotel rooms of rock musicians. A telling moment comes when Rae bumps into the lonely, drab girl who was her high-school lab partner and thinks that “was the fate Didi saved me from.” In gratitude, Rae shoulders all the work of their relationship, while Didi reaps the benefits; the reader can anticipate what will happen when Rae meets the sexiest man either has ever encountered. For Tomás’s sake, both women study flamenco, the bitter, staccato gypsy art. The story concludes not with blood and tragedy but the stuff bestsellers are made of.

Funny and beautifully structured to create anticipation and suspense, with lush moments of romance and a surprisingly sturdy backbone.

Pub Date: June 8, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-4084-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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