An exciting, elegant novel that uses painful realities to create a powerful tale about the nature of relationships.

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Beneath the Greater Sky

In Voelker’s debut novel, a man goes on a mission to Wyoming while grieving his stillborn daughter.

Ryan Quinn lives in a suburb of Chicago with his expectant wife, Kathy. They reside in horse-farm country, with marshes and geese scattered around an ideal landscape that lends itself more to mist than strip malls. Their domestic tranquility is shattered, however, when Kathy senses a problem with her pregnancy, and she soon loses the baby. Devastated by the loss, the two decide to separate, and Ryan moves to downtown Chicago. When he hears that his grandfather Henry in Wyoming is in the hospital, he heads west, bringing along a quilt originally intended for his daughter, which he plans to bury in the mountains. When he gets to Jackson Hole, he finds it abuzz with news of a missing girl. As local tensions rise, he encounters hostility and suspicion, complicating his already difficult trip. Ryan’s grandfather, who lives near Jackson Hole, is a salt-of-the-earth World War II vet whose vivacious demeanor and soulful advice help to make this story more contemplative than melancholy; he offers both insight and comic relief. Ryan is a surprisingly capable character, seemingly handy with everything, yet as he heads up into the Tetons, he encounters forces he may not be able to control. The April landscape, “where rags of snow lay in the shadows,” simultaneously offers ample placidity and plenty of danger. Voelker’s writing is concise and full of dead-on descriptions and well-timed details of scrappy fights, small-town innuendo, and the grotesque. Ryan moves easily between wildly disparate environments, and the author’s use of short, italicized flashbacks will keep readers interested about the past, even as tension in the present day ramps up. This novel is exciting enough to please those looking for a simple adventure, but the quality of the carefully crafted, often gorgeous prose makes it a far more important story, and Voelker is talented enough to keep readers wanting more. Overall, it’s an impressive debut, with a conclusion that’s as reflective as it is cathartic.

An exciting, elegant novel that uses painful realities to create a powerful tale about the nature of relationships.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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