GREEN LAKE

Summertime in that bucolic retreat, Green Lake, Kansas, and the living is easy—if you don't mind the assortment of perverts and grotesques that Epperson left out of The Neighborhood (1995). Reeling from the suicide of her husband, anthropology professor Madeleine Heron accepts her sister Jacqueline's offer of a cabin in Green Lake. The nearest neighbors, Sherman and Gudrun Tanner, like to dig in their yard (and other people's) so much that Jacqueline calls them Earthworm and Mole Woman. A little further off, there's unemployed Ronnie Lyman, who's just dropped his youngest daughter off at his mother's so he and his wife can pretend she's been kidnapped and angle for publicity and sympathy cash. Of course Madeleine can't forget Bruce Beckworth, the good old boy whose determined advances have to be beaten back by conservation officer Dale Russell, whose smooth good looks and political connections (his aunt is governor of Kansas) would make him a great catch if he weren't a murderous child molester. So there's nobody left for Madeleine, ``dying of boredom and anxiety,'' to take up with but Dale's fellow-officer, Eris Renard, a scarred Sauk-Fox Indian she somehow kindles a romance with despite her diffidence and his sullen reserve. Eris has been looking for years for the birth mother who put him up for adoption, and he finds her just as his affair with Madeleine is at its steamiest. Naturally, she turns out to be just another threat to her peace of mind—a wealthy, possessive artist who wants Eris to come and live with her in Santa Fe and isn't crazy about his fling with a white woman. This volatile cargo of creeps mostly broods on their injuries and resolves to avenge them; the final tally will be five fatalities, no arrests. Even so, Epperson's seventh formula thriller is atypically sunny, with only scattered clouds and little real menace to the heroine. The rest of the cast is too busy killing each other off.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1996

ISBN: 1-55611-493-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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