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CHANGE ME

With some echoes of Kafka and Vonnegut, this novel looks for the soul of the 21st century and finds an abyss.

Global consumerism is a nightmare from which one nuclear family is trying to awaken.

This novel was published in Blatnik's (Law of Desire, 2014, etc.) native Slovenia in 2008, making it all the more remarkable how timely, even prescient, it seems now. On the surface, it’s a love story, beginning and ending with the same note from a husband to his wife, the wife he is leaving with their two sons, without warning. “It’s here now, this story, all of it,” he writes. “It’s here to say: I love you.” Though perhaps he has been warning her all along, perhaps the whole novel is a cautionary tale, one in which nothing is as simple as it seems, and the very notions of identity, character, free will, and choice are up for grabs. A passage referring to one character will end one chapter, and then the same passage will begin the next chapter, referring to the other, the husband and then the wife, or vice versa. (“Something had changed. Everything would have to be reorganized. It wasn’t too late.”) The man has not only walked away from his family, but from his computers, which he had once used as a musical mixer and later as a genius advertising sloganeer, “the boy wonder of his generation,” who, according to his wife, was “so efficiently helping to maintain the smooth running of the conveyor belt of goods fetishism and consumerism.” It was he who had come up with the “brand name for the toothpaste, DissiDent.” Yet he has apparently come to revile the values that he long worked to promote, and so he has taken off while leaving his family well provided for. His wife finds herself torn between her professional obligations, running a firm that involves occupational retraining for this new globalism, and her personal fears and desires. Her life is also transformed by her husband’s decision to transform his. By the end of the story, which ends where it began, little has changed and everything has changed.

With some echoes of Kafka and Vonnegut, this novel looks for the soul of the 21st century and finds an abyss.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62897-336-5

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet...

Four Chicago sisters anchor a sharp, sly family story of feminine guile and guilt.

Newcomer Lombardo brews all seven deadly sins into a fun and brimming tale of an unapologetically bougie couple and their unruly daughters. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her retort: “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.” Thus begins a story bristling with a particular kind of female intel. When Wendy, the oldest, sets her sights on a mate, she “made sure she left her mark throughout his house—soy milk in the fridge, box of tampons under the sink, surreptitious spritzes of her Bulgari musk on the sheets.” Turbulent Wendy is the novel’s best character, exuding a delectable bratty-ness. The parents—Marilyn, all pluck and busy optimism, and David, a genial family doctor—strike their offspring as impossibly happy. Lombardo levels this vision by interspersing chapters of the Sorenson parents’ early lean times with chapters about their daughters’ wobbly forays into adulthood. The central story unfurls over a single event-choked year, begun by Wendy, who unlatches a closed adoption and springs on her family the boy her stuffy married sister, Violet, gave away 15 years earlier. (The sisters improbably kept David and Marilyn clueless with a phony study-abroad scheme.) Into this churn, Lombardo adds cancer, infidelity, a heart attack, another unplanned pregnancy, a stillbirth, and an office crush for David. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Grace perpetrates a whopper, and “every day the lie was growing like mold, furring her judgment.” The writing here is silky, if occasionally overwrought. Still, the deft touches—a neighborhood fundraiser for a Little Free Library, a Twilight character as erotic touchstone—delight. The class calibrations are divine even as the utter apolitical whiteness of the Sorenson world becomes hard to fathom.

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet another pleasurable tendril of sisterly malice uncurls.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54425-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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