Structurally flawed, but remarkably evocative—Horack’s Florida is as real as your own backyard.

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THE EDEN HUNTER

After his story collection The Southern Cross (2009), Horack’s first novel tracks the adventures of a pygmy (and runaway slave) in early-19th-century Florida. 

Kau is a pygmy from central Africa. A tribal dispute leaves his family dead. Sold into slavery, he works for five years for a foul-tempered innkeeper in Georgia. By 1815, he’s had enough. The 29-year-old African enlists the help of Benjamin, the innkeeper’s son, in his escape, but when he refuses to allow Benjamin to accompany him, things go horribly wrong. He kills Benjamin, not intentionally, but murder is murder, and Kau will see himself as “a tiny cursed child-killer.” He makes his way to Florida. Not yet a U.S. territory, it’s a no-man’s-land, a patchwork occupied by the British, Spanish and Americans, as well as Indian tribes and runaway slaves. For Kau, violence proves inescapable. Before leaving Georgia, he was forced to kill a sentinel and a slavecatcher. He falls in with some redsticks (Creek Indians) who pressgang him into an attack on some white highwaymen. The redsticks die; Kau lives. His journey continues in its loose-jointed, anecdotal way until he crosses the path of the so-called General Garçon. The General is a highly educated runaway who has inherited a fort from the departing British. A charismatic leader, he has forged an alliance of English and Spanish-speaking blacks and Choctaws. His mission, to repel the advancing Americans, is doomed but galvanizing, more so than Kau’s quest for a sanctuary. It is significant that Kau’s finest hour comes as a dancing decoy who lures some American sailors to their death. Twice Kau attempts to leave the fort, and twice he returns, a yo-yo answering the General’s magnetic pull. So the novel is thrown out of whack, and the destination and salvation of the little fellow with the filed teeth ceases to matter that much. 

Structurally flawed, but remarkably evocative—Horack’s Florida is as real as your own backyard. 

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58243-609-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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