If you loved the first one, you might love this, though it is a bit less fresh and a tad slow.

LESS IS LOST

The notorious “middle-aged gay white novelist” Arthur Less is on the road again, this time stateside.

It feels churlish to dislike this book, which deploys all the tropes and tricks and brings back many of the characters that won its predecessor, Less, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2018. The narrator/puppet master, Freddy Pelu, whose identity was concealed until the end of the first book, has now spent a decade living in bliss with Less in San Francisco in a lovely home they call the Shack. Freddy gets back in the narration biz to tell the story of Less’ abrupt departure on a cross-country tour to raise desperately needed funds, as the estate of his old lover, the freshly dead poet Robert Brownburn, has presented him with a bill for 10 years of back rent for the Shack. And off he goes, this time through the American Southwest, South, and Middle Atlantic, driving a camper van named Rosina with a black pug named Dolly, affecting baseball caps and other Walmart-wear in hopes of appearing less Dutch. (“You from the Netherlands?” is one of the many ways people present their suspicion that he's gay.) As in Book 1, we get plenty of inside humor about all aspects of the writer’s life—prize committees, foundation grants, literary agents (Less’ is known as “Hello-I-have-Peter-Hunt-on-the-line-please-hold”), and writers with the same name. Yes, there is another Arthur Less, but unlike ours, who is shelved in Queer Authors, the other is shelved in Black Authors. Both are too small-time for General Fiction. Greer does sometimes write beautifully about life (a touching moment occurs when Less realizes he has to go through Robert’s death without Robert) and about fiction. “Robbery: friends mined for stories; lovers for sentiment; history for structure; family for secrets; small talk for sorrow; sorrow for comedy; comedy for gold.” “It's protagonists all the way down.” And, of novelists: “For are we not that fraction of old magic that remains?” Best case scenario, yes, but it's getting a little fractional this time.

If you loved the first one, you might love this, though it is a bit less fresh and a tad slow.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49890-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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