Hmmm…wonder what the Texas State School Board will think of this one?

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ADAM & EVE

The story of the story of Genesis, and a love story reminiscent of Joan Crawford’s worst movies are, uh, juxtaposed, in this very earnest sixth novel from the industrious Kentucky author (Abundance, 2006, etc.).

Set in the near future, it begins with the narration of Lucy Bergmann, widowed when her husband Thom, a renowned astrophysicist who had discovered evidence of extraterrestrial life, is brought rudely back to earth, so to speak, when a piano falls from the sky onto him. Inspired to continue Thom’s work, Lucy educates herself as needed, accepts numerous invitations to scholarly conventions and whatnot, and happens to be airborne en route to Egypt when engine trouble and the Hand of Fate steer her toward the nubile naked form of wounded American soldier (yes, dear readers, we’re still Over There) Adam Black, having awoken—like his biblical namesake—in the Mesopotamian desert, to a new world waiting to be claimed by this transplanted Iowa farm boy. Eventually this Adam, whose ingenuous ingenuity recalls the gnomic nonwisdom of Chauncey Gardiner in Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There, and his new Eve leave their garden and end up in France, in flight from Thom’s old colleague and enemy Gabriel Plum (“a serpent”) and into the orbit of anthropologist and cave-painting aficionado Pierre Saad, whose multicultural pedigree and ethos heighten his interest in The Object (which Hitchcock would have called the MacGuffin) that proves the world’s four major religions have a common origin. Traditionalists, needless to say, disagree: hence, this overheated novel’s ineffably risible climax. The book groans with faux-biblical encomia to Adam’s pristine naturalness (e.g., “And Adam touched himself, till he was satisfied” [the reader likewise groans, but not with pleasure]). Even stagier are its abundant rhetorical questions, such as Pierre’s “Are we so different from people who lived eons ago?”

 Hmmm…wonder what the Texas State School Board will think of this one?

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-157927-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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