A nostalgic little gem of a novel, with a quietly powerful message.



In Cruise’s debut novel, the death of a middle-aged Texan’s mother prompts him to reflect upon his childhood.

Linus “Bud” Ritter (named for the Peanuts character) and his siblings gather after their mother’s death shortly before Christmas 2008. Fifty-one-year-old Bud is a real estate agent and his wife, Franny, works at a junior high school. He and Franny discuss mortality and their life choices, including not having children; as a teen, Bud fathered a daughter who was given up for adoption. Before the funeral, he and the surviving Ritter siblings, known as the Nine, reminisce about growing up in the 1960s in Galveston, Texas. Money was tight, but times were good in their little house on 14th Street. Serendipitously, the home’s current owner allows the Nine to wander through the house one last, wondrous time. The author delivers a cohesive account of childhood, warts and all, and the enduring significance of a childhood home. Despite the novel’s brevity, Cruise crafts a realistic relationship among the Ritter kids and especially between Bud and Franny, whose married-couple banter rings true. The book teems with humorous expressions such as, “Christ on a cracker, I think I'm gonna blow!” and “I’m more of a holiday Catholic.” Anecdotes from the Nine’s collective childhood are similarly inventive and include a near-disaster by fire in a Christmas tree fort, averted by “The Patron Saint of Untoasted Children”; “The Legend of Lunchtime Horror”; and a fun-filled flight through a parking lot on a runaway grocery cart. The novel’s occasional serious moments are touching but not maudlin. Among its poignant comments is that today’s children don’t play much outdoors anymore; video games have trumped swings and slides. This novel may hold little appeal for readers in their 20s or early 30s, but it will likely engage and enchant Baby Boomers who remember their childhoods fondly.

A nostalgic little gem of a novel, with a quietly powerful message.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468145922

Page Count: 228

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 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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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 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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