An enjoyable tale that traces the unlikely rise of a good-hearted man surviving humble beginnings.

READ REVIEW

HOLLYWOOD VIA ORCHARD STREET

In this coming-of-age novel, a young man tries to attain his dreams through luck and pluck.

In Clark’s (That Woman, 2017, etc.) Depression-era tale, Charles Czerny has led a sheltered life. Now in his 20s, he shares a small, dingy apartment on the Lower East Side with his mother, who has become increasingly distant following the early death of her lover, the man Charles called Uncle. The only thing Charles inherited from Uncle was his truck, Blue. Charles uses Blue to deliver bundles of newspapers to newsboys, but he also aspires to become a reporter someday. The naïve Charles is soon also earning extra money by doing special jobs for the Irish mob, which protects the papers he delivers. Charles, who uses the nom de plume Bulldog, then gets in over his head by taking part in a convoluted plot to murder a theater critic who gave a bad review to a musical that starred the mob boss’s girlfriend. Worse yet, he falls for the starlet. To save her and himself from that kingpin, Charles recruits a rival gang, a Chinese tong, to intercede on their behalf. Will Charles make enough right moves to end up getting the girl and the career he craves? In this story that feels like a tale culled from the golden age of movies, Clark has created a real Horatio Alger–type character in Charles. What Charles lacks in book learning, he makes up for by reading and listening to those in the know. He can also read people. In other words, Charles makes his own luck, albeit sometimes by accident. He is a protagonist readers can root for. The other well-rounded characters are the leaders of the Chinese tong; the players attached to the Irish mob are more one-dimensional. Clark has paced his narrative well, slow enough that Charles’ relationships can grow organically yet not too poky. The novel’s atmosphere also gives readers a good feel for what was a difficult time to grow up in New York City. The result is a colorful snapshot of one man’s mission to pursue his ambitions, whatever the obstacles.

An enjoyable tale that traces the unlikely rise of a good-hearted man surviving humble beginnings.

Pub Date: July 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77519-151-3

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more