Sometimes more is less.

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TERRARIUM

NEW AND SELECTED STORIES

A new collection from one of our finest short story writers, preceded by condensed versions of her last three books.

The assumption must be that, despite the prize nominations, critical picks, and good reviews, most readers have missed Trueblood's last three books and that her latest is insufficient to win them on its own. Because why else would her new collection be published as the fourth element in an omnibus of selected stories from each of its predecessors, all of which were relatively recent (Criminals, 2016; Search Party, 2013; Marry or Burn, 2010)? The problem is that since "Terrarium"—this is the name of the section of new stories within the book—contains a fair amount of flash fiction and stories that require a lot of attention and mulling from the reader, the publisher is not doing it any favors by sticking it at the tail end of a collection of the strongest (and, among them, the longest) stories Trueblood has ever written. There are indeed some great stories here, praised for their unsettling combination of empathy and ruthlessness, for their elegant, uncommonly quick development, for their diverse, unexpected subject matter. Stories like "Invisible River" and "Sleepover" doubtless deserve the widest possible audience. As for the grab bag of pieces in "Terrarium," it's hard to know how they would seem if they were not read at the tail end of the line. Trueblood's interest in calamity persists—kidnapped babies, battered wives, terminal diseases. And she is still a cleareyed and compassionate reporter of the complexities and contradictions of human nature. Maybe if the collection had been allowed to become a book on its own the short pieces would seem less like fragments. Trueblood has had an unusual career, having first published at age 60. Nonetheless, what seems intended to be a "rediscovery" feels a little rushed.

Sometimes more is less.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-073-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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