MY SOUL TO KEEP

Top-flight soft-horror novel by Miami-based columnist Due (The Between, 1995). Some 500 years ago, young Dawit of Lalibela, in Abyssinia, was inducted into the 52-member group called The Immortals by the master Khaldun, who had drunk the blood of Christ. Still looking 30, Dawit (now known as David) lives in Miami, his Khaldun-transfused blood so filled with T-cells that no disease or injury can kill him. He is, for all practical purposes, immortal. He's had many careers. He's also had many lovers, wives, and children, and watched age overtake them while he remained young. Today, his daughter Rosalie, from a liaison in New Orleans in the 1920s, lies infirm in a Chicago nursing home. David stops off to administer euthanasia. Then he returns to Jessica, his wife of six years, a Miami reporter who's just started research on a book about disgraceful conditions in nursing homes. The Immortals think themselves above humans, so when David feels threatened by Jessica's research he kills her fellow researcher, Peter. Although he's killed before to protect his identity, his love of Jessica makes him feel, for the first time, guilty for what he's done. David realizes that he doesn't, for once, want to outlive and, to protect his secret, abandon his human family. Will Jessica discover that her husband's immortal? Will he give his blood to her and their five-year-old daughter, Kira, so that they can always be with him? Suspense tightens neatly with modest melodrama but with a big sense of family life. Due is careful to portray David as both hero (he's charming and talented, polylingual, and a published author) and threat. He is, essentially, an alien trying to mimic a life that can never really be his. A sequel seems likely, though it may be hard to keep up the gripping originality here. ($65,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: July 16, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-018742-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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