Drury is a master at showing extraordinary things happening to ordinary people—and it’s always a fun ride.

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THE DRIFTLESS AREA

A likable loser has his small-town life upended by vicious lowlifes and Twilight Zone weirdness in this sparkling fourth novel from Drury (Hunts in Dreams, 2000, etc.).

We first meet high-school junior Pierre Hunter while he’s visiting his girlfriend in the hospital. Soon afterward, she dumps him. He’s in college when his parents (elderly, eccentric, cherished) die within weeks of each other. Pierre does not retreat into self-pity, but it takes him five years to graduate. He finds work as a bartender at a supper club in Shale, Iowa, his hometown. Not everything that happens to Pierre is bad. Skating on a lake, he falls through the ice but is rescued by a beautiful young woman called Stella, who revives him in her little house on a bluff, where she lives alone. It’s like a fairy tale, thinks Pierre, not knowing that Stella and an old man, a kind of paranormal fixer, are using Pierre for their own ends. Stella is drawn to Pierre regardless, and they make love with abandon before he hitchhikes to California to vacation with his cousin’s family. Returning home, he gets a ride from Shane Hall, a career criminal who once burned down a house with a person inside. Luckily for Pierre, Shane is as much of a bungler as he is; his attempt to steal Pierre’s backpack ends with Shane unconscious and Pierre richer by thousands of dollars (he found the stash under the hood). He’ll send the money to a lost soul he met on the way out, but by now Shane and his partners are tracking him down. Drury ties up all the threads (Shane, the fire, Stella) with consummate skill; the climax comes the day Shale is celebrating “Bank Robbery Days.” The bittersweet ending is a perfect mix of light and dark.

Drury is a master at showing extraordinary things happening to ordinary people—and it’s always a fun ride.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-87113-943-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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