Full of intelligence and charm.

READ REVIEW

THERE'S A WORD FOR THAT

A long-divorced pair of 70-something celebrities runs into each other at a ritzy Malibu rehab center.

Tanen's (Are You Going to Kiss Me Now?, 2011, etc.) first novel for adults follows a YA title and a hilarious series of illustrated books featuring yellow chicks. Though her delightful sense of humor infuses the plot and dialogue with sparkle, the characters and their predicaments are not played for laughs, or not only for laughs—along with the farcical situations come moments of real emotion and insight. The novel's title refers to German words that express concepts that take a whole sentence to convey in English, like Verschlimmbessern (“to make matters worse in the process of trying to improve them”) and Schnapsidee (“a plan so stupid, it must have come from a drunken mind”). These and three other such terms are the titles of the five sections of the book. In the first, two senior citizens with celebrated careers turn their lives into train wrecks. Marty Kessler is a retired Hollywood producer whose gold-digging girlfriend packs him off to Directions Rehabilitation Center for yet another stint in rehab when his opioid-and-benzo habit veers out of control. Bunny Small is a gin-swilling British author with a series of bestselling books for teens about a character named Henry Holter. When her estranged adult son, also named Henry Holter, fails to show up at the 70th birthday party thrown for her by her agent, she goes off the rails altogether. She, too, is sent to Directions. The family members who remain in the outside world have troubles of their own: Henry's girlfriend is cheating on him, and now his mother, whom he crossed the globe to escape, has shown up in Los Angeles. Marty's daughters, Janine and Amanda, have never fully recovered from their mother's long-ago suicide; Janine has the additional burden of having been a huge television star when she was a child, while Amanda's twin daughters hate each other. As the characters weather tough times and deal with hurts old and new, love and humor light the way.

Full of intelligence and charm.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-43716-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more