Standard Holocaust potboiler, nicely narrated but nothing special.

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SONGBIRD

The perils and wiles of a Jewish girl who escapes from Poland during WWII and travels to France to fight with the Resistance.

Zacharius (founder and CEO of Kensington Publishing) debuts with this story of Marisa (“Mia”) Levy, who grows up in a well-to-do family in Lodz, where her father runs a successful medical practice. Cultivated but provincial, the Levys have great hopes for Mia, a talented pianist, and send her to study in Paris. The war, unfortunately, puts an end to just about everyone’s ambitions—especially for Jews living under Nazi occupation. Mia’s father sizes up the situation right away: The Ghetto of Lodz (administered by the notorious Jewish collaborator Chaim Rumkowski) has been set up to bleed the Jews slowly of all their property before dispatching them to Auschwitz as quietly as possible. He tries to short-circuit the process by bribing an official for safe passage out of the country but is betrayed and ends up in the camps after all. Mia managedsto escape and get to Warsaw, where she joins an underground cell of Jewish partisans and is safely smuggled out of the occupied territories, first to Switzerland and later to the US. While staying with relatives in Brooklyn, Mia meets and falls in love with Vinnie Sforza, a big band clarinetist. She also makes contact with a secret branch of US Army Intelligence and provides them with information about the concentration camps and resistance movements in Europe. After America enters the war, Mia joins a branch of the special services that’s been set up to smuggle agents into France. Now, after all her trouble getting out, Mia is to return—but as an avenger rather than a victim this time. Since her parents are still alive in Auschwitz, her mission may become a rescue as well.

Standard Holocaust potboiler, nicely narrated but nothing special.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2004

ISBN: 0-7434-8211-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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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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