A sometimes-starry-eyed but well-observed and entertaining saga of democracy in action.

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THIRD PARTY

VOLUME I: STARTING IN THE MIDDLE

A ragtag band of extremely wealthy, well-connected reformers upends the two-party system in this debut savvy political novel.

Alex “Atlas” Stein hosts a confab of friends at his Aspen, Colorado, chalet to unveil his plan to start a third party. Specifically, he wants to take on what he sees as the divisiveness, sleaze, and gridlock of American politics. After a lengthy tutorial on the formidable barriers to third parties in a presidential system, he signs up his guests: U.S. Army Gen. Samuel Huntington “Hunt” Smith, who will command the party machinery; policy wonk Julie Kersten-Covington, Atlas’ old flame; internet whiz Lauren Chevez de la Rosa; campaign strategist Mark Stone; and baseball hall-of-famer Tom Robinson, who will serve as the party’s goodwill ambassador. Dubbing itself the “E Party”—with the “E” standing for education, economy, and ethics—the enterprise starts slowly by fielding several candidates for the Illinois state legislature. Thanks to an adroit stealth campaign; a good slate of candidates, dominated by respected teachers; and Atlas’ millions, they win enough seats to deny the Democratic Party a legislative majority and force concessions. They pass breakthrough initiatives via shrewd maneuvering and crowd-pleasing publicity stunts; for example, they break a budget impasse by offering prizes to voters who provide expense-cutting ideas. They’re poised to make huge gains in the next election until a femme fatale, a Machiavellian Democratic operative, the even-more-Machiavellian Democratic speaker of the Illinois House, and the Democratic National Committee chairman target the E Party with tawdry rumors and ginned-up criminal charges. Some readers may find Nemerovski’s view of political passions to be quaintly out of date after the election of Donald Trump, as the E Partiers are sure that it’s issues of good governance, fiscal responsibility, and education that will spark a populist uprising against the political establishment. Fortunately, his portrait of nuts-and-bolts politics is realistic and engrossing. His characters play a ceaseless, multilevel chess game, strategizing on candidate recruitment, messaging, media schmoozing, parliamentary procedures, and the subtle niceties of legislation that can have explosive, unexpected results. Although there are some longueurs of anodyne banter, the narrative largely unfolds at a snappy pace via emails and press reports that follow the characters’ moves and countermoves. The result is a sharp, colorful critique of state politics that takes its importance seriously.

A sometimes-starry-eyed but well-observed and entertaining saga of democracy in action.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68111-135-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Wasteland Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2017

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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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