A modest international romance, likely to please fans of the genre.

Only Wheat Not White

In Dixit’s (Wrong Means Right End, 2012, etc.) romance, a young Indian woman must make her way personally and professionally in America.

Eila Sood isn’t sure what to expect when she arrives in New York from Delhi: after all, she’s never visited the country, and she hasn’t seen her sister Sheela in seven years. Sent as an envoy from her aging parents, she hopes to repair ties with her sibling, who was cast out from the family for wedding an American man. But despite marrying for love, Sheela’s relationship with her husband is rocky, and Eila finds her sister trying to re-create a slice of India in suburban New Jersey. But Eila has her own problems: just as she’s beginning to adjust to her new job in Manhattan, her hours get cut in half; she winds up doing the books for a strip club and then working as an assistant for Brett Wright, the owner of a local upscale restaurant. Brett is intense, maddening, often rude, but always sexy, and from the moment Eila gets off the plane at JFK, she keeps running into him where she least expects it. Although she initially wants nothing to do with him, she inevitably gets pulled into his world—and she may finally have to face the fact that she isn’t putting up much of a fight. But how can she be the second child to go against everything her parents believe? This fourth novel from Dixit treads familiar narrative ground from an uncommonly explored cultural perspective. The exploration of Eila and Sheela’s relationship, and Sheela’s conflicting feelings about her marriage, are the strongest parts of the novel. Eila and Brett’s relationship, however, may be enjoyed by romance fans, but will be less persuasive for general readers. Anyone who’s read Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey will be familiar with the story of a clumsy, insecure protagonist falling for a brooding, unattainable man, but the transition from Eila and Brett acting rudely to each other to realizing they’re in love is so quick that it feels jarring. He comes across as nothing more than a fantasy—and one that never comes down to earth.

A modest international romance, likely to please fans of the genre.

Pub Date: June 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9903884-0-1

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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