Taken alone, the narrator's self-absorption would be grating, but her story resonates powerfully within the saga of three...

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THE BONES OF GRACE

With this story about a contemporary Harvard-educated Bangladeshi woman struggling to be true to herself as well as her heritage, Anam completes her three-generation trilogy about Bangladesh.

Anam’s A Golden Age (2008) tells the story of the Bangladesh civil war against Pakistan through the eyes of a widow who makes self-sacrificing choices for the sake of her children. Set more than a decade later, The Good Muslim (2011) focuses on the widow’s daughter, Maya, now a doctor. Now comes this book-length narrative from Maya’s adopted daughter, Zubaida, to Elijah, the American lover she has forsaken but hopes to win back with her written explanation, a form that allows Anam to introduce names and snatches of information as foreshadowings that she fleshes out later. A highly educated paleontologist, Zubaida always expected to return home to Bangladesh and marry Rashid, whom she’s known all her life as the son of  her parents’ closest friends. But then she meets philosophy grad-school dropout Elijah at a Shostakovich concert only days before leaving her lab in Cambridge for a dig in Pakistan. The chemistry is immediate, and when Zubaida gets to Pakistan, they communicate through song lyrics. But the dig, where she hoped to find the complete skeleton of Ambulocetus natans, a whale that lived on both land and in the sea, goes tragically wrong. Zubaida flies home to Bangladesh, where Rashid presses marriage. Longing for Elijah, she finally lets Rashid's and their families’ wishes prevail, but one day into the marriage she realizes “the depths of [her] mistake." After a miscarriage, she finds temporary respite interviewing mistreated workers taking apart ships in the port town of Chittagong. There, her romantic confusion comes to a crisis point, as does her growing obsession with finding her biological roots.

Taken alone, the narrator's self-absorption would be grating, but her story resonates powerfully within the saga of three generations of women personifying Bangladesh’s evolution from the clarity of revolution to the confusions of assimilation with the larger world.

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-147894-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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