Full-hearted, believable writing in an enjoyable travel tale.

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FIVE FERRIES

After his brother’s death, a young American sets out to backpack around Europe in this debut novel.

Stephen Kylemore’s fixation with travel comes in part from reading “too many novels.” From an early age, he took to perusing the books his elder brother, Edward, left behind. During a tour of duty in Vietnam, Edward writes to Stephen, recommending he read Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander. When Edward is killed in battle, the novel is returned home as part of his effects. Stephen reads the book over the course of one evening and is fascinated by the mystical setting of Catalonia. He purchases a one-peseta Catalonian coin for good luck and as a reminder of his brother and starts to plan the journey that in happier circumstances he and Edward would have taken together. Leaving behind his partner, Pam, Stephen takes a flight from New York to London and begins his adventure. His initial target destination is Grettstadt in Germany, where he believes his old boss will set him up with a job. He meanders his way there, first catching a ferry to the Netherlands and then hitchhiking. His mind regularly turns to the love he left behind, his lost brother, and the hope of finally arriving in Catalonia. The novel captures the naiveté of a young, wide-eyed American traveling overseas for the first time—comparing all that he encounters to home: “Tiny cars, large black taxis and double-decker buses drove on the wrong side of the street. Still, it seemed a bit staged, as if this weren’t real.” Such passages read as extracts from a travel diary, and as a consequence it is easy to forget that this is a work of fiction. In Stephen, Ried has created a believable and likable first-person narrator that speaks with a simple sincerity: “I loved my brother and I hated war, but I was resolved that my life would be enriched, not shrouded, by his memory.” The author’s prose never displays the fervid passion for the road found in Kerouac’s Lonesome Traveler nor captures the vulnerability of being penniless and exposed to the grime of the urban underbelly evoked in Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. But Ried’s narrative earnestness is sufficiently beguiling to make this an emotionally engaging travel novel that will prove difficult to put down.

Full-hearted, believable writing in an enjoyable travel tale. 

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-949085-02-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: CKBooks Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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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

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