Napolitano’s characters can break your heart as they work to mend their own.


Who do we deserve to love and be loved by?

Drawn into the orbit of a tightknit family upon falling for Julia, the eldest of the four Padavano sisters, William Waters experiences the kind of family solidarity, affection, and sense of belonging he never had with his own dysfunctional parents. William developed an (initially) effective coping strategy during his lonely childhood and devotes his energies toward succeeding in the only place he feels comfortable: the basketball court. College sweethearts, Julia and William marry and begin a life together directed mostly by Julia’s wishes for stability and status; the plan and relationship are derailed by William’s gradual decline into a crippling depression. Julia and William divorce, and William distances himself from their infant daughter, Alice, too. Relationships between and among William and all of the Padavanos rupture and realign over the ensuing decades as Napolitano spins a saga of familial love, deception, and hope for healing while adeptly highlighting each family member’s unique position in the narrative. Each of the Padavano girls is finely described—there's Julia, who's straightforward and driven; Sylvie, dreamy and romantic; and twins Cecelia (artistic) and Emeline (the sensitive moral compass of the group)—and it is entirely plausible that the girls envision themselves from time to time as the March sisters from Little Women. (Rounding out that parallel is the presence of a dreamy, poetic father and a hardworking, long-suffering mother.) More subtly, the influence of Walt Whitman is felt throughout the book, from epigraph to end, as characters come to terms with their roles in an evolving universe. As in Napolitano’s recent Dear Edward (2020), heartbreaking circumstances shatter the lives of relatable human characters who are unprepared for the task of building a meaningful life.

Napolitano’s characters can break your heart as they work to mend their own.

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780593243722

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dial Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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

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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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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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