A beautiful pair of love stories and a thrilling peek into a lost world.


In this debut novel’s two parallel tales about a Florida tribe, a young man struggles to overcome grave danger to be with the woman he loves. 

In 1513, Willow is 20 years old and a member of the Calusa Tribe that has occupied Florida for millennia. While out fishing, he catches a massive snook—the biggest one ever snared in Calusa history, a distinction that makes him widely known and admired. As a result, the king grants Willow a wish, and he chooses to take a series of tests to join the Wiseman Council, the “most revered club in the nation.” While Willow passes the prohibitively difficult exams, securing an important role in tribal political life, he’s much more excited about pursuing a relationship with Cylee, the “most beautiful woman in the Calusa nation.” But the Spanish are preparing to invade, and Willow’s duty is to risk his life to join the fight against their advances. Watkins artfully places this story alongside another strikingly similar one set two centuries later, in 1710. Again the protagonist is named Willow, and he’s elevated to the status of a “national hero” when he bravely defeats a company of Spanish soldiers with the assistance of his friend Bonee. This Willow is also elevated to the Wiseman Council and is revered by many as a “god in disguise.” He falls in love with a princess, Leah, and is made a prince himself, a conversion that allows him to marry the girl for whom he’s pined for years. But in this second plot, the danger to this union isn’t war but the spread of a disease carried by the Spanish that proves deadly to the Calusa, a terrible turn of events affectingly described by the author. Watkins vividly brings to life the intriguing culture of the Calusa and manages to fit two moving tales of love into one brief novel. His prose is plain and sparing but precise and powerful, though the dialogue, especially in the second narrative, can be earnestly wooden. The author provocatively raises questions about the inescapability of destiny but wisely withholds any facile answers, permitting readers the liberty to ponder them on their own. 

A beautiful pair of love stories and a thrilling peek into a lost world. 

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69735-471-3

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2019

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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