An almost unbearable sense of the futility and pain that ensue from the failure of decent people to sustain loving relationships lies at the heart of this bleak sixth novel by the New Hampshire author (Novemberfest,1994, etc.). Weesner, whose meditative style and painstaking narrative architecture gradually build a vividly evoked world, opens his story with a tight focus on Maine lobsterman Warren Hudon’s arduous performance of his daily chores. Warren both accepts and ignores the fact that he’s dying from lung cancer—a fact he conceals from Beatrice, his unfaithful, long-estranged wife (with whom he still lives, however), and their daughter, Marian, also trapped in a loveless marriage, to a coarse husband she’s eager to ditch. The viewpoint shifts among these three and Virgil Pound, the sleek, duplicitous former state senator (himself married for many years) who has, as Warren well knows, been Beatrice’s lover for 30 years. Is the unassuming Warren, as seems strongly implied, a Dante wandering in a dark wood of suffering, separated from his Beatrice, (mis-)guided by an utterly self-absorbed Virgil? Such parallels aren—t developed, but there’s genuine tragic force in the tale’s inexorable progression. Preparing to die, Warren seeks a meeting with Beatrice, hoping to forgive and to find peace. Guilty and suspicious because she has long felt taken for granted, she rebuffs him. Then, reversing a pattern of 30 years of passivity, Warren acts’shattering four lives irreparably. The devastatingly ironic denouement foreshadows the lasting consequences, even as it hints at the possibility of reconciliation beyond any he had hoped for. The triumph of Weesner’s rigorously realistic story is that we come to know his characters as fully as we know ourselves, yet are as startled by the directions in which their emotions lead them as we are by the unpredictability of our own lives. An unforgettable novel, unquestionably Weesner’s best to date.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-87113-766-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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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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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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