This book’s spirituality is a bit thick, but its snazzy legal high jinks make for an entertaining read.

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Rhinos Sharks & Unicorns

A HERO'S JOURNEY

From the The Journey Begins series

A sublime lawyer tutors two lousy younger attorneys on cutthroat courtroom tactics and spiritual uplift in this legal dramedy.

Mace Spinella and Brick Hawthorne are former door-to-door perfume salesmen, newly minted grads of a Texas law school, and eternally self-pitying losers facing eviction from their Austin apartment. Desperate for rent money, Mace literally chases an ambulance while Brick attempts a slip-and-fall insurance scam, and both schemes fail miserably. Just before they’re arrested for bribery, they get whisked away by an older lawyer with the name of Ike Turner and the look of Kris Kristofferson. Ike is a font of grizzled scorn—“You don’t even deserve the label greenhorn,” he says. “You’re green bananas…junior shysters”—and paternal life-lessons, the latter sometimes delivered in the form of elaborate bets that seem like sure things to the unwary. He tosses Mace and Brick a couple of throwaway cases involving prostitution and drug possession, and he makes the resulting trials a grand seminar in legal procedure, from voir dire to cross-examination (“If you make it look like you’re having to coax it out of him, it makes him look like he’s being less than forthright,” he tells them). But during a trial, Ike teaches that lawyerly ploys are far less important than a deep connection with one’s soul, gained through prayer and breathing techniques (“I inhale flexibility, trust, and freedom. I exhale rigidity, fear, and resistance”). Feazell’s saga is a lively, if ungainly, mix of clashing elements. Crass courtroom maneuvering mixes with earnest therapy-speak: “When pride and willfulness are finally identified and surrendered, true character development and spiritual transformation can take place.” Marijuana is an overbearing presence, conveyed both in the third-person narrative voice—“Scientific studies have shown marijuana is a cure for cancer, and that it helps with Alzheimer’s, autism, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, migraines, seizures, and even restless leg syndrome, to name a few”—and those of Mace and Brick during their shapeless interludes of stoned palaver. Feazell is a lawyer, and the story comes alive during his fascinating scenes of courtroom strategizing and during his insightful soapboxing on the burdens that the legal system imposes on the poor. Ike, meanwhile, is a charismatic figure that readers will hope to see more of in subsequent installments of the series.

This book’s spirituality is a bit thick, but its snazzy legal high jinks make for an entertaining read.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-615-97462-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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