Feather light but oddly compelling.



French playwright and novelist Reza, best known in America for her 2009 Tony Award–winning play, God of Carnage, offers 20 scenes to show the interlocking lives of various Parisian spouses, lovers, parents, children and friends.

Although the title derives from a Borges poem, the intellectual pretentions do not weigh as heavily as they might; the scenes are brief, with limited punctuation and no paragraphing—as if to emphasize the evanescence and rapidly changing nature of relationships. No one is exactly the central protagonist here, but the opening belongs to the most frequently seen characters, Robert and Odile Toscano, whose push-pull of irritation and attraction during an argument over car keys represents the universal state of marriage. In a later scene, Robert grouses after the couple attends a party hosted by Remi, a lawyer who turns out to be Odile’s lover. Remi is acquainted with professional gambler Yorgos, whose friend Raoul played cards with Odile’s father, Ernest Blot, to help him recover from depression after a coronary bypass. Ernest’s sister, Marguerite, a Spanish professor, may be hopelessly in love with a colleague, but she seems like a strong woman compared to Ernest’s wife, Jeannette, when they clothes shop together after Jeannette’s 70th birthday party. And then there are Robert’s friends Luc and Lionel, who tells the other two the secret reason he and his wife, Pascaline, seem so devoted: Their son, Jacob, is in a mental hospital because he believes he's Céline Dion. Raoul’s wife, Hélène, runs into Igor, Jacob's psychiatrist, with whom she has an erotic history. And so the relationships unspool and reknot scene after scene to include a professionally caring, personally demented oncologist; unhappy mistresses; wives; mothers and children. The difficulty in keeping track of the names seems to be purposeful, a complex game of matching up characters in various patterns as lives sometimes crisscross, sometimes run parallel, until the Toscanos take center stage again in a funeral finale that brings everyone into new relief.

Feather light but oddly compelling.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-509515-692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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


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.


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?