Bernie is an original with her own voice, a believably awkward mix of sassy attitude and breathless insights, but she...

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THE YOKOTA OFFICERS CLUB

A military brat recalls the summer she finally made the break from Mom, Dad, and the Brass—in a fifth appearance for the author of The Mommy Club (1991), etc.

It’s the 1960s, students are protesting the war in Vietnam, and Bernie Root is wearing dirty jeans with peace-sign patches when she disembarks at the Air Force base on Okinawa after her freshman year in college. But Bernie’s no rebel. She loves her family, especially Moe, her mother, and is disturbed by the condition of their new quarters (an uncharacteristic mess) and by the frosty relations between her parents. Mace, her father, is bitter because he hasn’t been promoted and, even more importantly, isn’t flying anymore. Moe seems to be living on tranquilizers. Younger sister Kit, the family beauty, is running wild. Her three brothers’ room looks like a hobo camp. Youngest sister Bosco has anxiety attacks. Everything went wrong, Bernie thinks, after the family suddenly was ordered to leave Yokota Air Base in Japan, then forbidden any contact with their much-loved maid Fumiko. Now, when Bernie’s surprising win in a dance contest takes her on a tour of Japanese military bases with has-been comedian Bobby Moses, she conveniently gets the chance to Understand Everything. At Yokota, where her father was a hero for flying dangerous spy missions, Bernie meets with Fumiko, whose story of postwar hardships, a liaison with an American officer (Mace’s commander), and the death of her baby daughter makes all clear. Bernie at last feels free of her responsibilities to the family and ready to make a life in the US, away from the military and its far-reaching influence.

Bernie is an original with her own voice, a believably awkward mix of sassy attitude and breathless insights, but she marches too much in lockstep with her creator’s overly schematic plotting. Like everyone else, she’s under orders.

Pub Date: June 27, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-41214-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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