A robust tale of violence and vendettas.


Deliver Us From Honor


A family saga of betrayal, brutality, and Sicilian honor.

Sicily in the spring of 1911 is a dangerous place and time for the Vazanno family, the prime players in this debut novel. “Get the horses. I’ll get the shotguns!” Sevario Vazanno shouts when he and Santo Padua see smoke coming from the farm owned by Sevario’s brother Giuseppe. Discovering that Giuseppe and his wife are missing and their animals are burned to death, Sevario is relieved to discover the couple’s two daughters, Adriana, 16, and her little sister, Francesca, hiding in a tunnel below the family’s property. But the joy of finding the sisters is soon shattered when Sevario discovers the body of his other brother, Gaspano, shot to death on his nearby farm. Who committed these heinous crimes is a puzzle, and Adriana silently holds the key. The story flashes back several months to her rape by Turiddu Vanucci, son of her father’s dear friend Vito. She keeps the act a secret from nearly everyone—especially her father, Giuseppe. But when his wife, Maria, discovers who violated their daughter, she engages her son in a vendetta. “It has to be you, Antonio,” she tells him. Antonio, who is studying for the priesthood, is horrified by his mother’s unholy request, but his omertà “culture demanded it…and he knew he had to accept it.” Valenti excels in providing her characters with seemingly insurmountable situations, plenty of action, and rich dialogue. There is, however, an overabundance of characters, and the inclusion of a family tree would have been helpful. For example, it is confusing as to who Santo Padua is: on the first page, he is identified as Sevario’s brother, but later, Sevario’s niece Adriana and Santa “were not natural siblings, as he had been adopted.” Also, too often characters cry or feel tears coming to their eyes—not that the Vazannos don’t have reason to wail with all the drama they encounter.

A robust tale of violence and vendettas.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63393-106-0

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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