THE DARK HALF

Book #1 (of four) of King's celebrated megabucks publishing contract—and it's King at his effusive near-best, with a long, ultra-violent, suspenseful story of a best-selling writer whose pseudonym comes to life and goes on a murderous rampage. As in Misery, King again fantasizes from his own writerly experience, creating as his hero Maine author Thad Beaumont—who, in addition to literary novels under his own name, has written four grisly best-sellers under the pen name of George Stark. Unlike King's own Richard Bachman pseudonym, though—to whom King claims "indebtedness" here, and who was laid to rest after exposure by a resourceful reporter—Stark takes on malignant flesh after Thad (staving off threatened exposure) kills him off by going public in People magazine. Rising from his mock grave pictured in the People spread, Stark beats to death a local Maine man—and draws the ire of subsidiary hero Sheriff Alan Pang-born. When Stark's fingerprints turn out to match Thad's, the writer becomes the law-man's prime suspect—until Stark's graphically detailed blood-riot in Manhattan, where he kills Thad's literary agent and everyone associated with his "death," convinces Pang-born that Thad is innocent. King enriches this mayhem with his usual psychological soundings (are the now telepathically linked Stark and Thad truly two halves of one whole?) and occult symbolism (in an effective borrowing from The Birds, millions of sparrows, "psychopomps," herald Stark's moves). But the strong accent here is on violent action, with matters reaching a ripping climax as Stark kidnaps Thad's family to force Thad to help him write one last novel—the writing of which will allow the crazed Stark, now decaying, to suck up Thad's life force. A potent, engrossing blend of occult and slasher horror, not as fully riveting or grandly ironic as Misery, but without the pomposities of much other recent King—It; The Tommy-knockers—and certainly slick and scary enough to make it the book to beat on the fall lists.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1989

ISBN: 0451167317

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1989

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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