An unexpected epic made from life’s minor moments.

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BETWEEN YOU AND ME

Nadelson’s novel—which occasionally recalls John Williams' Stoner—drifts through 20 years of a man’s domestic life.

Paul Haberman meets Cynthia, falls in love, and gives up his bachelor lifestyle in Manhattan for marriage and a “rambling suburban house” with her two kids. From there, each chapter jumps two years ahead of the last, dipping into a different moment in Haberman’s life: taking the kids to Raiders of the Lost Ark,  waiting for a car repair, or becoming the unwanted focus of a comedian during a stand-up set at a club. Even in the more fraught moments—like moving a parent into an assisted living facility or toying with the idea of a business-trip affair—Nadelson (The Next Scott Nadelson: A Life in Progress, 2013, etc.) avoids clean narrative arcs or Aristotelian drama. The lesson? Life’s loosely connected occurrences accumulate like junk in a closet, and only in old age does one realize that the accumulation was the point. Nadelson’s book has a bit of lumpiness to it: not every chapter hits equally hard, and occasional interludes, each titled “Nocturne for left hand,” disrupt the book by seeming self-conscious and too writerly, the author wrangling life into poetry rather than letting the poetry unfold naturally. But mostly this novel alights on small profundities, like the joy of yardwork or the intimacy of watching bad crime shows with your family or the epiphanies that can come while pondering life on a plane—and which are best forgotten once back on land. Finally, all of this gathers into...well, what? Meaning? “Paul was tired of changes, but changes kept coming,” Nadelson writes. Maybe that’s the point: there’s optimism in change, in occasional alienation, because it means the world is at least growing in each moment, however uninflected it may seem.

An unexpected epic made from life’s minor moments.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938126-33-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Engine Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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