An intimate study of power within two of the relationships that define us most precisely—that of lover and that of child.

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PERMISSION

Echo, a Hollywood almost-was, is aging out of her chance at stardom. Then she meets Orly and Piggy—a dominatrix and her submissive—whose tender partnership helps her redefine what it means to give and to receive.

At 25, Echo seems to have missed her shot at the big time; she's foundered on the edges of a Hollywood career, toying with advertising, modeling, even the idea of high-end sex work but always returning to the inertia of hustling for bit parts and living off cash infusions from dad. Then, on a trip home to the Santa Monica–esque hills outside the city, Echo witnesses an accident that results in her father’s death. Her grief is claustrophobic, raw, and immobilizing. Though complicated by Echo’s difficult relationship with her thorny mother, her paralyzing sense of loss bogs down a character already mired in the fog of her unclear ambitions, and its haze threatens to submerge the book entirely. Fortunately, Echo’s miasma is pierced by a second, more dynamic character's perspective. Piggy is one of Echo’s new neighbors, a 50-something submissive and the antithesis to his housemate and dominatrix, the stunningly erotic Orly. Whereas Echo is a passive character, content to chronicle what she is offered in the heady descriptive voice that emerges as the author’s strong suit, Piggy’s desires are much clearer and more direct. His movement from the painful estrangement of his smothering marriage to becoming a member of a community that accepts him with both grace and ardor is nuanced and well-wrought. Meanwhile, the development of his relationship with Orly, his tumultuous rivalry with Echo as she assumes the role of Orly’s new assistant and lover, and his eventual reconciliation with both his partner and his own hard-won sense of self are the triumph of the novel. A sensitive and sympathetic figure, Piggy enlivens Echo’s character and allows the reader to view her as something other than a product of the cloud of privilege that seems to surround her.

An intimate study of power within two of the relationships that define us most precisely—that of lover and that of child.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55245-380-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Coach House Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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