Beautiful language, delightful storytelling and a fully imagined world make this return trip to Oh worth the ride.



Award-winning author Siciarz (Left at the Mango Tree, 2013) returns to the fictional island of Oh for a fresh mystery in this witty companion to her debut novel.

When the tropical island of Oh gets quiet, that can’t be good. Oh’s lone newspaperman, Bruce, has no news to report besides the occasional rainbow, until an anonymous personal ad is placed in the newspaper, sending the citizens—including Trevor the baker, Branson the teacher—into a frenzy of speculation. Raoul, the mystery-loving customs agent, wants no part in Oh’s gossip, but when a mysterious message appears on the side of his house, he has no choice but to become involved. A mangled bicycle and a missing woman add to the drama, and the bumbling police officers Arnold and Joshua begin to concoct a case that Oh’s newspaper laps up. When fisherman Madison Fuller is accused of murdering the missing woman, his sister, May Fuller, scrambles to clear his name. High jinks and gossip abound as everyone adds to the story of the crime, and more messages painted on Raoul’s home urge him to investigate what others on Oh are not. He’s led to Mrs. Jaymes, house help to the late Capt. Dagmore. Dagmore’s origin story becomes a novella within a novella, and several chapters pass with Raoul trying to pull pertinent information from Mrs. Jaymes’ memory. If Raoul is frustrated by Mrs. Jaymes’ long tangents, readers will also be irked as the story rambles along, piling more characters from Dagmore’s life on top of the mystery at hand. Yet as Oh prepares for its first courtroom trial, Raoul learns what he needs to know, and with a flourish, he’s able to provide the final piece of the puzzle. The flavor and wit that decorated Oh the first time around are still present in this sequel, with snappy dialogue, well-timed plot twists and Siciarz’s lyrical sentences. Dagmore’s meandering origin story sometimes deters from the immediacy of the mystery, and his multiple names (e.g., Quick, Bowles) can be a bit confusing. The novel’s big reveal isn’t a huge departure from Left At The Mango Tree, as family secrets and heritage again hold the keys to Raoul’s burning questions. Nevertheless, it’s an island tale as charming and whimsical as Siciarz’s first.

Beautiful language, delightful storytelling and a fully imagined world make this return trip to Oh worth the ride.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014


Page Count: 369

Publisher: Pink Moon Press

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2014

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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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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.


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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