A sprawling story about the value of work that ultimately misses the point of redemption.

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NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU

It’s only the end of the world for a semi-journalist who loses his lifetime gig.

Florida journalist Shine turns on his profession with this acidly funny but disjointed first novel about a newspaper refugee who takes unemployment harder than most. His Everyman hero is 46-year-old Jeffrey Reiner, the listings editor at a South Florida weekly with an atmosphere so poisonous that the employees flee to happy hour at the first whiff of a layoff. This introduction has a similar vibe to Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End, as Reiner mourns the loss of the humdrum job he’s held for 18 years. His wife, Anna, is a terrifying perfectionist who soon loses patience with Jeffrey’s self-delusions. “All the career counseling and self-help books and job fairs and networking crap—it’s all monotonous and repetitive,” he whines. “There’s too much emphasis on working. They act like nobody can exist without having a great job. There are other things I’m doing. Important things.” Meanwhile, his kids Andrew and Kristin are incensed over the loss of cable and laptop privileges. To deal with his increasing stress, Jeffrey contemplates writing a blog about his plight, spends time with his loser buddies and uses his unemployment counselor as a makeshift shrink. Before long, he’s taking questionable assignments from Omar, a fly-by-night entrepreneur. There are highlights to this dysfunctional odyssey—a major freak-out involving a tire dealer and a disastrous trip to swim with dolphins are two of the book’s best moments. However, for all the zippy dialogue and culturally savvy humor, the story never seems to go anywhere—just like its increasingly tiresome protagonist’s career. The book might appeal to the masses of unemployed workers out there, but its lessons are few and far between.

A sprawling story about the value of work that ultimately misses the point of redemption.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-58985-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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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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