A smart and engaging what-if that has the virtue of being plausible—and the added virtue of not having been written by Bill...

READ REVIEW

THE IMPEACHMENT OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Law professor turned novelist Carter (The Emperor of Ocean Park, 2002, etc.) waxes counterfactual—and sometimes piles historical nonfacts to dizzying heights.

Yes, the counterfactuals sometimes threaten to suffocate the real matters here; as Carter, who cheerfully admits to much invention, writes, “None of this was true, but all of it was in the newspapers.” The overriding counterfactuality here concerns a historical chestnut: Honest Abe warred on the Constitution when he suspended habeas corpus and effectively put the Union under a state of martial law. The act earned him the label of tyrant in his time—and in Carter’s pages, with pro-Confederate sympathizers and staunch Unionists alike rising up in protest. As Carter’s tale opens, Lincoln has indeed been assassinated—almost. Shot on Good Friday, he rises from the near-dead on Easter Sunday, Christlike. “Across the country, people cheered,” writes Carter, with much portent. “Those who felt otherwise kept their disappointment to themselves, content to bide their time.” Those numerous disappointed types include more than a few traitors and insurrectionists, some deep within the bowels of a government still riven by the late unpleasantness of the Civil War. But who are the bad guys, and who mere celebrants of the First Amendment? Since Lincoln is alive and well in Carter’s telling, it would be uncivil to ponder the implausibility of his choice of heroine, a young, fearless and brilliant African-American named Abigail Canner, who, fresh from Oberlin, is determined to expose the real engine driving the plot to turn the Great Emancipator out of office—and it’s not all the doing of the juicily bad character called the Lion of Louisiana, either. Fans of secret codes will enjoy watching the mind of Abigail’s legal-eagle sidekick at work, and Abigail herself makes for a grandly entertaining sleuth.

A smart and engaging what-if that has the virtue of being plausible—and the added virtue of not having been written by Bill O’Reilly, so that the real facts are actually facts.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95840-2

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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?

more