In this innovative novel, Chejfec is gesturing toward the grand European traditions on his own terms.

READ REVIEW

THE INCOMPLETES

A novel of lonesomeness and recollection that takes the construction of characters as its subject.

The question "Who's responsible for this?" often takes on a tone of indignation, but in Argentine writer Chejfec's latest novel it's not an admonishment so much as a practical consideration. As the book opens, the narrator informs readers that he is going to tell us a story—"something that happened one night, years ago, and the events of the morning and afternoon that followed"—and yet the novel is filled with several stories, large and small, as well as multiple nights and evenings. Just as the missives described by the narrator from his friend Felix grow from postcards to full-blown letters, so too do the accumulated moments grow larger and more significant as the novel moves from Buenos Aires to Barcelona to Moscow, where Felix checks in at the Hotel Salgado. From there Felix's story intersects with that of Masha, the hotel's owner. We're let in on her innermost thoughts and feelings, as we are with Felix’s. She's as persistent as Felix is transient, going about her day wrapped in shapeless bundles and gliding across the floors in shearling boots as she completes her tasks. As their stories begin to intertwine and pieces of their stories begin to resemble one another (a woman whom Felix met at lodgings prior to the Hotel Salgado complained to a clerk about losing money in her pants; Masha, while cleaning a room she is staying in, finds a stack of money in the closet), readers are uneasily reminded of the fact that, in the end, neither Felix nor Masha is telling the story at all. They barely say a word—it is the narrator adorning simple correspondence from a friend with drama and stemwinding diction. The effect it conjures gets at the heart of narration in general: What is the responsibility of the storyteller to adhere to the facts as told? Is it possible to ever completely know what happened? If the story is vivid and engaging—as this book is—does it matter?

In this innovative novel, Chejfec is gesturing toward the grand European traditions on his own terms.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948830-03-4

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more