Strong characterizations and realistic relationships help make this shark tale a satisfying, accomplished read.

Requiem Shark

A quest for vengeance after a tragic death turns a ragtag group of strangers into a family in Burnette’s (Christmas in Sunny California, 2011, etc.) adventurous narrative.

Off the coast of Florida, an older surfer places himself between a young couple and a bull shark; he saves them, but he’s fatally mauled in the process. In a boardroom in Maryland, an executive at the top of his game finds himself cut out of the company, adrift with plenty of money but no purpose. Soon, an independent truck driver reads a newspaper at a Florida diner one morning and finds the name of the surfer, a fellow soldier from the Vietnam War whom he hadn’t seen for decades. Driven by various needs—revenge, satisfaction for a wasted life, the desire to begin anew—the executive and truck driver, along with a pair of researchers who’ve fallen on hard times, hunt the bull shark that killed a man who’d been forgotten by the world. Burnette’s story is heavily indebted to Jaws, which Burnette makes explicit with repeated callbacks to the 1975 Steven Spielberg movie and the original 1974 Peter Benchley novel. He tells it with confidence, allowing the action to rise from his nuanced characterizations rather than by forcing plot contrivances on readers. Although the hunt for the massive bull shark is the characters’ primary motivation, their work and travel together gives them each new purposes and helps them bond as a makeshift family. Each character, from the Vietnam veterans who served with the dead surfer to the 17-year-old girl who pulls the surfer from the ocean, has plausible traits and fears, and Burnette writes with a surety that allows the people to drive the story. This confidence extends to the author’s use of the third-person viewpoint, which lets him provide information that the characters never learn. This strategy further develops the novel’s world and provides the groundwork for later explorations.

Strong characterizations and realistic relationships help make this shark tale a satisfying, accomplished read.

Pub Date: March 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4787-4021-6

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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