While Metcalf constantly impresses with his intelligence, his meta games and gnarly prose put such tough hurdles between the...

AGAINST THE COUNTRY

A boy’s school years in rural Virginia are marked by poverty, poultry, school bus torments and a brutish father, all of which would one day inspire him to tell his story with a ponderous postmodernist flair.

Labyrinthine sentences and metafictional antics make it difficult to separate style from substance in this variously humorous and bilious first novel. The narrator looks back from a distance of 30 years to the time in the early 1980s when his father uprooted the family of five from town life and planted them in a ramshackle house to endure a country life that’s a darker take on the faux-gothic of Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. There’s much more than a nasty thing in the woodshed. The boy endures snakes, wasps, ticks, bullies and frequent disciplinary thrashings. Two long sections concern the daily horrors of the “yellow beast,” the “yellow metal scow” that ferries him to and from school for frequent fights; and there's a possibly symbolic tale of his chickens’ efforts to fly the coop. Elsewhere Metcalf focuses on the father and narrator-son. Along with his mean dad’s physical and psychological oppression, there are references to his former scholarship and serious literary interests. Bitterness and wit have a tug of war in this mock memoir, as when the narrator’s thoughts about his father lead to plays on the words “meaning” and “meanness.” But they also echo an earlier, earnest pledge to challenge his father “in the ancient art of meanness, to which ongoing contest I submit this humble text.”

While Metcalf constantly impresses with his intelligence, his meta games and gnarly prose put such tough hurdles between the reader and this thorny parable of pain’s memory that it’s hard to see him winning more than a special, devoted audience.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6269-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Did you like this book?

more