Gaily self-amused, told in tart memos, cheeky checklists, sighs, essays, legal briefs, and heartsick journal entries....

ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE

Gay guys go gaga. By the author of the well-received baseball novel The Last Days of Summer (1998).

In 1978, Travis Puckett and all-star quarterback and shortstop Craig McKenna fall for each other at Beckley School in Tarrytown, New York, but ignore and put each other off until, well, all resistance fades and they kiss on a rainy day under a viaduct and then spend hours in each other’s arms. Craig is a sports star with a body to die for while Travis obsesses over Broadway musicals and collects every cast recording ever made, once even cutting classes and hiking 300 miles to buy a used LP of Greenwillow with Tony Perkins in a singing role. Craig prefers Tony stabbing women in the shower. The two go off to colleges on opposite coasts and lose track of each other. In 1998, Travis is teaching American History at the University of Southern California; he requires all of his jocks’ student essays to relate to sports figures, and, meanwhile, tries to get a grant to write a book, Alexander Hamilton and the Designated Hitter. He has also spent years rooming with his old Beckley roommate Gordon Dubois, who’s now a screenwriter for Argosy Entertainment, sort of, and begins scripting this very novel. Though in Splitsville, Gordo and Travis live together, albeit in separate parts of the house. Craig, meanwhile, has a law partnership with fellow Harvard grad Charleen Webb in Saratoga Springs, New York, wants to organize a teensy Freedom to Marry March on Washington, and loves Clayton Bergman, who runs a hardware business, gives Craig a platinum wedding ring—and they’re together 12 years. Both Travis and Craig have full lives, but Travis, sigh, finds something missing. Can Brigadoon be reborn? So Travis leaves Gordo and heads for Saratoga Springs. Once there, can he get Craig away from Clayton?

Gaily self-amused, told in tart memos, cheeky checklists, sighs, essays, legal briefs, and heartsick journal entries. Straights may nod off.

Pub Date: May 11, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-059583-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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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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