A two-tissue tale about life after loss.


I'll Always Be with You

The threads of a dead man’s life and history converge in Armour’s dramatic debut novel about heritage, family, and forgiveness.

When Stanley Kostoff dies, it seems like everything—his life, his love, his family’s happiness—comes crashing to a close. But when his widow and children move from Phoenix back to his hometown in Middleburg, Indiana, a new beginning might be on the horizon. For Mary, his widow, it means a new job and a new life away from friends and memories. For Rosetta, his high school sweetheart, it means the story of long-dead teenage romance may not yet have found closure. And for his grief-stricken son, Teddy, it means a chance to start again, however reluctantly, away from the guilt over his father’s death but also away from his friends, girlfriend, and a spot on the varsity basketball team. As the family settles in with Stan’s mother, Baba, they find that their new beginning comes saddled with the relics of Stan’s past. In the attic, Teddy finds an old book of wisdom that offers insight into his father’s Bulgarian heritage as it helps him overcome his guilt, master his sorrows, and see beyond the petty frustrations of varsity basketball and moving to a new school. New friendships abound—from a quirky, know-it-all locker mate, Mindy, and a teenage burn victim, Joe, to the sometimes-fraught interactions between Mary and Rosetta. Readers will admire Teddy’s large, if tragically incomplete, circle of friends and family. The plot is peppered with enough dramatic turns and strange coincidences to fill a soap opera season, and while the tropes—forbidden love, unplanned pregnancy, and drunk driving deaths among them—can occasionally feel tired, Armour generates enough interest in her characters to retain reader interest. If the plot occasionally succumbs to melodrama, the same cannot be said for the portrayal of the family’s loss, which remains both sensitive and realistic as it chronicles the difficult, sometimes-ugly stages of grief.

A two-tissue tale about life after loss.

Pub Date: June 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-6832-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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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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