Salinger (Beyond the Fire, 1997) doesn’t have it all together yet in the plotting department, but his good guys are...

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WHITE DARKNESS

A fast-paced thriller that moves from Haiti’s mean streets to New York’s, all the while chronicling some high-octane lives.

Not all of them estimable, by any means. Colonel Hugo Ferray, for instance, is as deep-dyed a villain as ever twirled an ill-disposed mustache. We meet him first doing what he does best: murdering without remorse and raping without conscience. Ferray is to a value system what Torquemada was to the idea of mercy. Balancing him is young Fabrice Lacroix, a sweet-natured innocent forced to flee Haiti when he becomes the sole surviving witness to one of the Colonel’s bloodier capers: the wholesale slaughter of a well-to-do family for the sake of a buck. In New York, Fabrice is taken under various wings until circumstances lead him to the West Indian restaurant owned by Madame Arcinciel. There, his life takes an upward turn of a kind he never could have imagined. Jewelry store owner Moe Rosen, too, is undergoing transformation—from loser to winner—with Madam Arcinciel pivotal. If he hadn’t foiled a mugger’s sneak attack, he never would have met Madame’s star waitress, the magnificent Marlene, love object and catalyst for everything bright and beautiful. His love is requited, his failing jewelry store turns a corner, and, to his astonishment, Moe, the near-misanthrope, finds himself enjoying Mr. Rogers–like popularity in his rapidly changing Brooklyn neighborhood. Suddenly, Colonel Ferray materializes, his dark agenda crammed, as always, with despicable plots—involving the hunted Fabrice, yes, but also Madame’s daughter and Moe’s Marlene for good measure. And for a while, evil is clearly in the ascendancy until the forces of good get a timely boost from some beneficent voodoo.

Salinger (Beyond the Fire, 1997) doesn’t have it all together yet in the plotting department, but his good guys are thoroughly likable, and his bad guys keep the pages turning.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60728-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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