A beautiful and gut-wrenching exploration of a woman defining herself after a monumental loss.

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LET ME BE LIKE WATER

A young woman moves to the Brighton seaside to cope with her boyfriend's death in Perry’s debut novel.

Holly is a 20-something musician reeling from the sudden death of her longtime boyfriend, Sam. Unable to stay in London, surrounded by the remnants of happy memories, she abruptly packs up and moves to Brighton, where she proceeds to spend a lot of time staring at the sea. While doing so she meets Frank, a retired magician with a habit of collecting broken people and who has dealt with a loss himself. Joining Frank at his next book club meeting, Holly is introduced to a new social circle filled with people who either understand her pain or empathize with it as they deal with their own issues, from loss of a child to eating disorders. As she grows closer to her new group of friends, she finds the space to begin to deal with her feelings about losing Sam and explore the possibilities of her new life in Brighton. Perry’s last book was a poetry collection (Curious Hands: 24 Hours in Soho, 2015), which comes as no surprise, as the novel is told in a lyrical first-person that wrenches deep within Holly to connect with the reader. Short vignettes jump around from the present to memories of times past as Holly gets herself through, one day at a time. Though there is some discussion of the other characters’ difficulties (racism, body image issues, homophobia), ultimately this is Holly’s story, told from Holly’s point of view, so they are only briefly touched upon. At only a little more than 200 pages, this is a quick read but by no means a light one, each sentence carefully crafted and full of emotion.

A beautiful and gut-wrenching exploration of a woman defining herself after a monumental loss.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61219-726-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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