In this rough-and-tumble frontier story, endless layers of deceit up the ante and interest.

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Where They Bury You

Opening just before Lincoln is inaugurated, this historical novel describes the world of cowboys and Native Americans as it collides with the Civil War.

In his second novel, Kohlhagen (Tiger Found, 2008) weaves a complex tale around the real-life murder of Santa Fe’s provost marshal Maj. Joseph Cummings and the thousands of dollars stolen from the Army, the church and the New Mexico Territory during the time of the Civil War. He blends fiction with reality and uses many historical characters—Cochise, the chief of the Chiricahua Apaches; Kit Carson, one of the American frontier’s controversial legends; Augustyn “Auggy” Damours, a gambler and con artist. Kohlhagen also introduces several fictitious characters, including the sassy Lily Smoot, a Santa Fe poker dealer and occasional prostitute; U.S. Army captain John Arnold, who, over time, serves as a sort of father figure to Lily; and David Zapico, store owner and businessman. In the book, this unlikely (and untrustworthy) team of outlaws bands together to pull off one of the greatest heists in American history. Their plan, however, is not without its hiccups, close calls and, ultimately, fatalities. Greed and stupidity often get in the way. But, this is not the only plot unfolding. While the plan for embezzlement slowly takes shape, we see the effects the “White Eyes” have on Native American nations. Kohlhagen capably sketches the growing tensions between Native Americans and the U.S. soldiers and settlers; among various nations, as they unwittingly enter each other’s territories due to increasing loss of land to U.S. forces; and between the Union and Confederate soldiers as Lincoln takes office and the Civil War breaks out. Throughout the novel, it’s clear that few people trust each other, and for good reason, as everyone appears to have an agenda.

In this rough-and-tumble frontier story, endless layers of deceit up the ante and interest.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0865349391

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Sunstone Press

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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