Whimsical to the point of fluff, but kind of fun nonetheless: the story of how a ditzy, Tai Chi—practicing, failed art historian becomes a bigamist and a single mother. This time out, Trott (The Holy Man’s Journey, 1997, etc.) features Effie Crackalbee (nÇe Croy), whose willful edge in life gets her into trouble but whose charm always wins out in the end. On her honeymoon with Harvard associate professor Alan, Effie (a.k.a. Jane, her thesis-writing pseudonym) decides to flee her one-month marriage once she realizes that the novel that Alan has promised to write is all empty talk. She gets as far as the Harvard Club, where she goes to use the bathroom, and ends up getting hired as an au pair to the recently divorced Gleb Saltonstall’s two kids. Of course, it turns out that Gleb’s summer manse on the Massachusetts coast is just across town from the beach house where she and Alan were honeymooning. Gleb and son Danny soon fall for Effie, who becomes pregnant (by whom she’s not sure) before deciding to return to Alan part-time. And so it goes in a piling-on of complications (little Danny falls into a coma after getting hit by a car, which triggers Gleb’s proposal and Effie’s well-intentioned acceptance) and family coincidences (Gleb’s sister serves as the ruthless agent to Alan’s mother, a ghostwriter who writes her son’s novel and, as we finally learn, the very novel we’re reading). Through it all, Trott’s deadpan knack for inserting reality into the cotton candy (Danny’s coma, Alan’s insistence on an abortion, the indifference of both “fathers” to their baby) gives a welcome astringency to an otherwise cloying tale. An exuberant, weightless New Age beach book, perfect for fans of Holly Golightly and other free spirits; for more serious readers, an ice-cream headache. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 17, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-49234-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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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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