An entertaining tale rich in schadenfreude as bad things happen to a hapless billionaire.

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THE HAZARDS OF GOOD FORTUNE

A gimlet-eyed writer observes the life of a New York property baron as it unravels amid personal, business, and legal woes.

Greenland (I Regret Everything: A Love Story, 2015, etc.) is a screenwriter and playwright whose fifth novel recalls Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities—except the rich guy is an implausibly good person. Jay Gladstone inherited and expanded a New York real estate empire that has allowed him, by the year 2012, to own five homes and a professional basketball team, practice philanthropy, and bask in a well-buffed public persona. His biggest flaw is pride that slides toward myopic self-righteousness and can render him dangerously uncool on hot-button issues. Life is generally good, though—and then it isn’t. His star ballplayer doesn’t like his proposed new contract. Jay’s second wife wants a baby, which goes against the prenup. Jay’s college-age daughter from marriage No. 1 is sleeping with a black female classmate, who disrupts the family Seder with a pointed comment on black slaves vs. the Jews’ biblical slavery. Jay’s cousin and partner in the family firm is embezzling. But Jay is coping well until he drives his car into the aforementioned ballplayer after catching him in bed with Mrs. Gladstone No. 2. The scene is recorded on her smartphone and soon goes public, along with Jay’s statement: "Why does everyone in this family need to have sex with black people?" Racism has been a simmering theme in the book since a white cop shot a black man early on, through the Seder, and in the college students’ debate on racial politics as they prepare a play on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Now racism hangs heavy on Jay and his legal predicament, which dovetails with the political ambitions of a district attorney who needs a showcase trial with a racial component to appeal to various slices of the electorate. Greenland takes a Dickensian delight in letting the plot sprawl with parallels, digressions, false leads, and twists. The ultimate twist may be the ending, which puts Jay’s possible absolution in the unlikeliest quarter.

An entertaining tale rich in schadenfreude as bad things happen to a hapless billionaire.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60945-462-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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