A lively yarn about the gross but tasty sausage-making of politics.

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THIRD PARTY

VOL. II: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

An idealistic third party braves the snake pit of Illinois politics in this second volume of a sprawling trilogy on statehouse skullduggery.

In this continuing saga, the upstart E Party—for Ethics, Economy, and Education—has won a smashing election victory, picking up the Illinois governorship for its dark horse candidate, Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tom Robinson; four of six statewide offices; and the balance of power in the state legislature. Alas, sinister cabals of Democrats and Republicans gather to thwart the party’s program of government ethics, sound budgets, and education reform. The Republicans file for a governor’s race recount, hobbling Tom’s ability to push his agenda; the Robinson administration’s effort to streamline state operations runs afoul of obscure legal strictures; the budget bogs down; a battle royal over redrawing legislative districts opens up an abyss of partisan jockeying; and the education reform bill faces a constitutional challenge by the ACLU (for good reason, as the bill would force high school dropouts to go to school, enter the Army, or do some volunteer gig like AmeriCorps, which sounds like involuntary servitude). Arrayed against the plucky EPers is an array of foes: colluding Republican and Democratic election lawyers; Eddie Cobb, the dark lord of the Democratic National Committee, intent on strangling the EP in its cradle; and Javier Sanchez, a Democratic assemblyman doing Cobb’s dirty work in exchange for help in becoming speaker. Caught in the middle is current Speaker David Kennedy, a master strategist looking to fend off Cobb’s and Sanchez’s attacks and cement his legacy with education reform. There is much heavy-duty wonkery in Nemerovski’s (Third Party, 2016, etc.) novel, but the procedural of election challenges and ballot counting, redistricting maps (they now rely on computer models that would baffle NASA), lobbying, and arcane parliamentary maneuvering is engrossing; the mainly epistolary format of the narrative includes a few overlong memos but mostly unfolds in snappy emails and press reports. Unfortunately, while the EPers hold their own in Springfield, the Republocrats dominate the narrative with their colorful scheming, cackling, vote-stealing, back-stabbing, and womanizing. The EP characters are chiefly boring do-gooders who are forever telling one another how amazing they are. The donkey-elephant show is entertaining enough that readers should hope that the EP never pushes it off the stage.

A lively yarn about the gross but tasty sausage-making of politics.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68111-129-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: Wasteland Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 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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