An unsettling study of a mind, steeped in violence, dropping off the edge of reason.

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MOTHERLAND HOTEL

Turkish writer Atilgan's classic 1973 novel about alienation, obsession, and precipitous decline, nimbly translated by Stark.

Zeberjet is the owner of the Motherland Hotel, formerly his ancestral home in Izmir, Turkey. Defined less by his nebulous personality than the invariable order of his days, he rises at 6 a.m., takes tea with one lump at 7, visits the barber every four weeks, the public bath every six months, and violates the hotel's charwoman on a near-nightly basis—until the night an alluring woman from Ankara stops in on the way to her village. Though her stay is brief and the conversation minimal, Zeberjet's obsession takes hold while he keeps her room just as she left it and visits nightly, the details of their interaction repeatedly intruding on his thoughts. When he accidentally drops and shatters her teacup, he believes all chance of her returning destroyed along with it, leaving him free to plummet into complete debasement. Later, enraged at his own impotence, Zeberjet murders the charwoman, along with her cat, whereafter he dreams of being put on trial, not for the murder of his employee, but her pet, as his attorney winks, putting a tidy point on the treatment of women all around him. As his life narrows to exclude all but compulsion and dissimulation, he wafts through town as we slip in and out of his turbulent stream-of-consciousness, snippets of conversation drifting in and sticking to his jumbled thoughts, mixing with memory, fantasy, and family history. Everywhere he goes, Zeberjet encounters another crime, in fact or in retelling, recent or ancient, woven into the very fabric that makes up his world, and is "embarrassed, ashamed actually, before all those people who thought of themselves as innocent, who failed to realize that only crime—some kind of crime—could keep you alive on this earth."

An unsettling study of a mind, steeped in violence, dropping off the edge of reason.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-87286-711-6

Page Count: 152

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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