A subtle morality tale that will appeal to readers of all ages.

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THE HEN WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY

Published to great success in Korea, Hwang’s short novel is an adroit allegory about life.

Sprout’s a caged laying hen on a small farm. Sprout yearns for freedom, for a chance to mother one of the eggs taken from her. She has given herself the name Sprout because she "wanted to do something with her life, just like the sprouts on the acacia tree," something she only sees in her rare glimpses of the world outside flourishing in the barnyard. In her discontent, Sprout grows morose, frail, only to find herself culled from the flock and tossed into the "Hole of Death." Sprout, near suffocation, hears a warning from Straggler, a stray mallard duck tagging along with the farm’s other ducks. She’s in danger of being scavenged by a weasel. That night, Sprout slips into the barn with the other farm animals, but she’s shunned. The lonely Sprout decides to follow Straggler and one of the other ducks out beyond the farm. The other duck is killed, but Sprout finds her egg. With brave Straggler standing watch for the deadly weasel, Sprout broods the egg, thinking, "My dreams are coming true." But after the egg hatches, she begins to comprehend that Baby, as she calls him, will grow to become Greentop, a duckling with his own destiny. Hwang has penned an anthropomorphic allegory with allusions to prejudice, to sacrifice and to the recognition of destiny, a fable in the vein of classics like Charlotte’s Web and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Hwang’s story of Sprout also speaks of family and love, of courage and loss, and of the value of the individual in the face of mindless conformity. Translator Kim does stellar work in rendering the tale into colloquial English, and the narrative is decorated with minimalist pen-and-ink drawings from the Japanese artist Nomoco.

A subtle morality tale that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-14-312320-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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