EDGE CITY

Demandingly overwritten noir novel in deep black with hangover dialogue screwed so tight it hurts. Some scenes tattoo themselves on the brain. Soracco (Low Bite, 1989) follows the adventures of Reno as she leaves prison on parole and goes into some nameless ``Edge City'' where life is ever on the edge of cashing her in for more jail-time or maybe just for good. As black-tongued Reno thinks, ``I'm fucked coming and going.'' Or, as Soracco describes Reno's mind-state while still in the slammer: ``Still caught by the slow limping dream of prison, alone with nothing but spiders as company for too long, Reno listened to the dried souls rattle in her mind, her ritual gourd—like a miser she counted memories for protection—not nearly enough to fill her need: bend them weave them wake them shake them; over and behind the rattle she heard the judicial voices murmuring, always the same: `She shows no remorse,' `Lock her up.' `Of course, of course.' '' Enjoyment of this novel depends on how much of such writing you can take. The main characters are blacks; at least they talk in Black English. The ever-sullen Reno winds up waitressing at Club Istanbul, which features belly-dancers and a real Arab band. Drugs float everywhere, and the club's second floor is rented by Mr. Huntington, a necrophiliac writer who murders young girls and then does worse to them. This hotbed of sex, dope, and blackmail isn't the best place for a parolee to work, while Reno's room at the Royal Hotel is a lot less friendly than her old cell. The plot moves through a sludge of chopped-off dialogue to a sizzling climax with Reno stuffing hot red-pepper seeds into Huntington's ear—which has its desired effect both on him and the reader. A ba-ad old Ace or Pyramid paperback original dolled up in hardcovers but, still, mean, ugly, and sulking.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1992

ISBN: 0-525-93520-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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