Despite its contrivances, an important and suspenseful addition to post-9/11 literature.

TIRZA

An aging man loses his daughter and regains his wife, which strikes him as hardly a fair trade.

Jörgen, the sullen, irascible hero of this novel, is in late middle age and hitting the skids. He’s been forced into early retirement at the publisher where he’d edited unprofitable novels in translation, his two daughters are distant, and his estranged wife is insinuating herself back into his tidy Amsterdam home. A large investment of his vaporized after 9/11, and the book is something of an allegory about how post-terror anxiety undoes middle-class certainties and unlocks our latent violence. The plot centers on a graduation party for Jörgen’s eldest daughter, Tirza, who is planning a trip to Namibia with her boyfriend, who reminds Jorgen of Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker. Jörgen is suffering from the hectoring of his shallow, judgmental wife, and his daughters haven’t always shown shrewd judgment. (He caught his youngest daughter, Ibi, having sex with a tenant in his home when she was 15.) But it’s also clear that something is broken within Jörgen himself, and the closing pages clarify just how tragic the break is. The latter third of the novel is set in Namibia, where Tirza has fallen curiously silent, and during his search, he befriends an impoverished 9-year-old girl whose waiflike wanderings mirror his own. To his credit, Grunberg (The Jewish Messiah, 2008, etc.) convincingly renders this unlikely scenario, though the book never quite settles into either a character study or a cultural study. The author at times positions Jorgen as a thin archetype of contemporary racism and bourgeois rage, but the book is redeemed by the clarity of the prose and the intensity of its core mystery, leaving Tirza’s fate uncertain while her father’s becomes lamentably clear.

Despite its contrivances, an important and suspenseful addition to post-9/11 literature.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-934824-69-6

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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