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HELLO BEAUTIFUL

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. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

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 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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