A fascinating exploration of early adulthood in Japan.

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INHABITATION

In 1970s Osaka, a young man moves out of his mother’s home and is consumed by thoughts of life, love, and an impaled lizard.

Stretching from the cherry-blossom spring of one year to the spring of the next, this novel follows the passionate preoccupations of graduating college student and part-time hotel bellboy Iryō Tetsuyuki. Miyamoto (Rivers, 2014, etc.) published this novel in 1984—straight after the release of his novel Maboroshi no hikari but before it had found fame as the film Maborosi—but its themes are timeless. Sometimes literally and always figuratively feverish, Tetsuyuki struggles with the tangible aspects of adult life: finances, collegiality, romantic love, filial obligations. The book's Japanese title, Haru no YumeSpring Dream—gives a good sense of Tetsuyuki’s tenuous grasp of reality as he comes of age. A perceptive if judgmental character, Tetsuyuki can be a deeply exasperating protagonist, though he's portrayed with just enough sympathy and fascination to keep the reader engaged with his constantly shifting resolutions. Through this balancing act and his clear prose, Miyamoto shows why he is respected in Japan, if little-known abroad. Somehow, Tetsuyuki's feelings toward his girlfriend, the financial debt he inherited from his father, his relationship with his mother, the profound nature of existence, and various concepts of reincarnation are all bound up with Kin-chan, the lizard he accidentally nailed to a pillar on his first night in his own place. A cast of characters at the Osaka hotel and around the Kansai region also provide foils for Tetsuyuki's developing sensibility and counterexamples for many of the relationships he is trying to develop.

A fascinating exploration of early adulthood in Japan.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64009-217-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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