A sharp and poignant collection.

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In her debut, Wang examines the difficulties of immigration as sources of pain, connection, and confusion between friends, family, and would-be lovers.

Wang's narrators come from all walks of life, from the poorest factory towns of rural Henan to the richest high-rises of Beijing. Yet they all struggle with feelings of alienation and distance from the people they should love the most—a state of unbelonging and disconnection spurred by migration. In "Mott Street in July," overworked immigrant parents drift away from their three children, leaving them to survive on their own in New York's Chinatown. In "Fuerdai to the Max," a spoiled rich kid who counts himself one of the "fuerdai," or "second-generation rich," tries to outrun the consequences of a brutal assault designed to keep the powers of his social circle intact. "Why should I care?" he asks himself, defensively. "Nobody cared what I did. I never had anybody to answer to." Wang's stories are spare and haunting, with endings that leave characters just as unsettled as their beginnings. Only occasionally do they turn tender, as in the exquisite "Vaulting the Sea," in which an Olympic hopeful decides to end his career after realizing his diving partner will never love him back. The collection is strongest when it fully embraces Wang's love of the uncanny as a way to parse generational misunderstanding or the surreality of contemporary life. "Echo of the Moment" offers a satisfying contemporary riff on the Narcissus myth and digital culture. Echo, a young Chinese-American student living in Paris, steals the couture from a suicide's apartment only to find that the clothes transform her into a viral sensation online—and that they might drive her to the same fate. And "The Art of Straying Off Course" moves in a compressed narrative time reminiscent of Woolf's To the Lighthouse, allowing an old woman—on her way to vacation in space—the opportunity to examine her early choices in life and love with the tender gaze of experience. "Behind me, through the window, all the places I am trying to leave behind," she thinks. "All that wonderful chaos, horizontal, never-ending."

A sharp and poignant collection.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2274-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: March 3, 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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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