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

CHANGE ME

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: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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

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IT ENDS WITH US

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 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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