Captivating and achingly realistic, this is a stunning debut.



In As You Like It, Shakespeare described lovers who, like Juno’s Swans, were “coupled and inseparable.” He could have been referring to Nina and Sarah, young women who meet during a summer theater workshop on Cape Cod.

Nina is just 17; Sarah is a slightly older college student working as an assistant acting coach in the program Nina attends. Virtually immediately, the pair fall into head-over-heels love; within a week, they’ve moved in together and seem to settle into a tranquil domesticity. They’re discreet but not closeted. Sarah has had other lesbian romances; Nina has not, but she’s more than willing. In fact, she’s hungry for attention and affection, having already experienced a shocking number of upsets and difficulties: Her father abandoned the family when she was a child; her grandfather committed suicide; her mom seems more interested in her career than in parenting her only child; her grandmother has begun the descent into age-related dementia; and an affair with an older, male teacher during her junior year of high school has left her confused, disturbed, and disgusted. Traveling from her New Hampshire home to Cape Cod, Nina reasons, will be an adventure. Initially, her plan was to travel to Wellfleet with her best friend, Titch, attend class, and work at a catering hall, a trio of activities that she believes will prepare her to survive her upcoming senior year. But once Sarah enters the mix, the plan goes awry. Suffice it to say that what unfolds is by turns tragic, heartfelt, funny, and charming. Set during the Reagan years, the novel has a backdrop of the burgeoning HIV-AIDS crisis and the post-Stonewall emergence of a strong LGBTQ movement, and numerous pop-culture references add authenticity. The strains that often emerge between women—among them, Titch is furious about being abandoned by Nina—are showcased, and when Nina ultimately gets jilted, the searing pain of a broken heart is rendered evocatively but without melodrama or sap. It’s first love writ large. Thanks to numerous supporting players—other students in the theater class and several neighbors and co-workers—the book not only situates the relationship in a broader political context, but makes time and place vivid ancillary characters.

Captivating and achingly realistic, this is a stunning debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60945-466-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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


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

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