Of these ten stories, another volume in the Illinois Short Fiction Series (see Burgin and Costello), two that dazzle concern sons who reach maturity through relationships with, or reminiscences of, their fathers; the rest either mark time or overreach. ``Madagascar'' (a Nelson Algren Award winner) is a marvelous reminiscence of a father's past as a Jew in Gestapo-controlled Amsterdam juxtaposed to the narrator's painful growth into adulthood. The story covers a lot of ground quickly through incisive instances. The other dazzler, the title story, wonderfully evokes a love that has lasted through the years. The narrator, after the death of his mother, helps his elderly father move. Together, they trace down a woman the old man barely knew long ago. When they find her, she's mostly senile, but the father brings her home anyway for a candlelit dinner and a heartrending summarizing image: ``He strokes her hair, then looks up at me and tells me with his eyes to mourn us all.'' Of the remaining pieces, the best include ``Summer Love,'' a Sixties-era saga about coming-of-age as a waiter at an aunt's hotel in the Catskills; ``Navajo Cafe,'' the story of a cross-country trek of a ten-year-old daughter and her father after the girl's mother dies, a journey that results in an accident as well as in some healing. ``Q 12081011,'' however, is a cluttered attempt to combine a tenth-grader, his gym class, his parents' divorce, the Holocaust, and cosmology as a metaphor for survival; ``Other Lives'' is a contrived surreal piece about a man whose car breaks down in a small New Mexican town; and ``Return With Us Now to Those Thrilling Days'' is a stale effort about a Sixties nostalgia party and a midlife crisis interrupted by a man in a gas mask with a knife. Schwartz is at his best when he forgoes cutesiness or needless complexity for honest fictional reminiscence. Some of these first appeared in Antioch, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Literary Review.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-252-01815-X

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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