An unusual, witty, provocatively anti-doctrinaire fable.



In an intentional utopian community on an island, a couple deals with the consequences of a sexual accusation.

“Having an affair with a student is never a good idea,” ruminates the character known only as Him in Italian author Raimo’s first novel to be published in the U.S. But, he continues, “it was statistically almost impossible not to.” This professor’s pregnant live-in girlfriend, known as Her, has been visited by a girl carrying a letter addressed to the man they have in common. It is an official accusation of repeated rape and sexual violence occurring two years ago, resulting in “TRAUMA no. 215.” The girl explains that she didn’t realize she was being abused at the time. The novel’s mockery of this situation is embedded in a larger sendup of politically correct culture and values, concentrated in an imaginary island called Miden. Created after “the Crash” in the unnamed home country of the protagonists (hint: they eat tiramisu and spaghetti), “the Crash had brought whole countries to their knees, whereas Miden emerged from the deep waters with the splendor of a Venus.” Miden is organized by Commissions, in which everyone must participate; both protagonists belong to Organic Pesticides. Diminutives and pet names have been outlawed to prevent women “from being harangued in an untoward or debasing way,” and since dressing in layers is required by law, most women wear “handmade raw wool sweaters in Miden colors.” When some audacious students print up white T-shirts with the slogan “WE’RE ALL PERPETRATORS,” these are soon joined by “WE ARE ALL TREES,” “WE ARE ALL OBLIQUE,” and “WE ARE ALL CHAIRS.” As the professor’s friends and associates submit questionnaires to be used at his trial, the couple suffers under the strain. A flowered orange poncho given her by a chromotherapist friend doesn’t help the pregnant woman, whose insomnia has become “almost ideological.” The verdict looms.

An unusual, witty, provocatively anti-doctrinaire fable.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4734-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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