Ecstatic disorientation is the trademark of Erickson’s work but, despite the labor involved in connecting each glimmering...

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OUR ECSTATIC DAYS

Erickson continues to ruminate on the millennial obsessions that preoccupied him in The Sea Came in at Midnight (1999), this time in a lush, profoundly disorienting story saturated in metaphors of birth and apocalyptic decadence.

As it opens, Kristin, who appeared in Sea, is a former rough chick made tender by motherhood. She lives in a hotel with her young son Kirk (short for Kierkegaard), on the edge of a lake (called Lake Zero, as in, you know, Ground Zero) that suddenly appeared and overtook much of downtown Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium. Mysterious letters arrive, addressed to a woman named Kristin, whose author may be a Chinese man once photographed standing in front of a tank in what is likely Tiananmen Square. He refers to his lover as his “labial jewel.” Kristin somehow discovers that the intended recipient may be another, older single mother also named Kristin who lives a gondola ride across the lake from her. Then one evening, obsessed with the idea that the lake will take her son from her, Kristin rows into the middle of it and dives down. Soon thereafter, a woman emerges on what (may) be the other side of the lake: she calls herself Lulu Blu, works as a dominatrix at the Chateau X, and has as a client a Chinese man (his e-mail address: Falsemartyr@4june89.net) who has memories of being a woman named Kristin—a woman who lost her young son. There’s also a phantom daughter named Bronte who emerges in several guises and a cipher who announces, “The Age of Chaos is here.” No kidding. And the moment Kristin dives into the birth canal of the lake, on page 83, a single sentence begins that runs through the middle of every page of the novel thereafter up until page 313. Not surprisingly, it’s supremely difficult to figure out what is actually going on.

Ecstatic disorientation is the trademark of Erickson’s work but, despite the labor involved in connecting each glimmering strand, his latest effort itself rarely adds up to more than a beautiful ash heap.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-6472-X

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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