A well-paced narrative palpably evokes America’s stormy past.

READ REVIEW

WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE HERE

A turbulent decade reverberates throughout two women’s lives.

The 1960s, as some chroniclers have noted, were nothing less than days of rage for many young men and women suddenly awakened to troubling political realities: overt racism and a violent, divisive war, both provoking an urgent pressure to act morally, to take a stand, “to dig out the rot.” But the upheaval of the '60s was not only political: Especially for women, ethical choices were complicated by love, sex, and, not least, money. White (A Place at the Table, 2013, etc.) handles that complexity with gentleness and empathy in a novel that follows the divergent paths of two friends: Evelyn Elliot Whalen, the cosseted daughter of wealthy, politely racist Atlantans, and Daniella Gold a middle-class, liberal Unitarian whose father is a Jewish professor. In 1962, they happily find themselves roommates at a small Southern women’s college that, the girls discover, holds onto some discomfiting customs: The top sorority refuses to accept Jews, for one; and African American maids, living in the basement of each residence house, clean students’ bedrooms and do their laundry. Eve, eager to take up a cause, protests their working conditions to the college’s headmaster, a gesture that backfires, as the more circumspect and pragmatic Daniella knew it would. Her “silly friend,” she reflects, “thought she could splash and kick her way into an ocean of oppression and instantly change the tide.” Eve continues to kick and splash after they both move to New York, become involved in CORE, and apply to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in registering voters in Mississippi. Daniella worries about the danger: “We should only take actions that are safe?” Eve asks, a question they continue to confront as they struggle to shape their role in the world. Drawing on memoirs, biographies, and histories, White vividly portrays the fractious radicals—such as Eve’s arrogant, manipulative lover—dedicated to smashing “bourgeois notions and attitudes” as well as the trajectory that some of those ardent rebels took in the 1970s and '80s.

A well-paced narrative palpably evokes America’s stormy past.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-0891-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more