A bright, brash, candid novel with a compelling story about one family in a rough part of town.

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TIGER DRIVE

A troubled family in a hardscrabble Nevada trailer park longs for success and uncovers a family secret in Case’s (I'm Going to the Doctor?!, 2015, etc.) novel.

Janice Sloan has never given up on her dream of being a singer, and at 48, she knows that time is running out. The karaoke contest at the local bar comes with a sizable prize, and Janice plans to win it and finally take off for Nashville. She seeks happiness, “The kind that could give her goose bumps on a hot summer day for no other reason than the sun warmed her skin.” But she has seven kids, an alcoholic husband, and has been trapped in the run-down Bengal Trailer Park for 30 years. Her husband, Harry, has just woken up with bloody knuckles after a drunken binge, and later in the day, he strikes Janice, who kicks him out. Teenage daughter Carrie has been saving for college and making plans to escape the trailer and live a better life. She’s an excellent student, but her parents haven’t cooperated with filling out the student loan forms. Adult son WJ belongs to a local gang. Discharged from the military after being exposed as gay, WJ has turned into a rage-filled aggressor who deals drugs to people in a community that doesn’t have many happy outcomes. As the family clings to stability, the layers of the past begin to unfold, centering around Janice’s roots in Minnesota. An old secret has the potential to tear apart the family but may also lead to peace of mind for those who need it most. Case’s tightly plotted novel dives right into the center of the cast’s working-class problems. The characters’ dreams and ambitions are palpable and tend to propel the family through each crisis no matter how bleak. In frank but polished writing, Case has created imperfect characters that have a remarkable knack for hanging on through tough times. This trailer park is where almost everyone fails, but the conclusion is infused with an optimism that highlights the strength of the world Case has so carefully created.

A bright, brash, candid novel with a compelling story about one family in a rough part of town.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997015-5-3

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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