SNUCK PAST DEATH AND SLEEP

An earnest but overlong story about philosophy, gay rights, and religion.

In Pierce’s debut novel, four students at a small Midwestern college join a philosophy club that organizes an explosive debate.

As the fall term begins at Wasserman College in 1987, four students arrive on campus, each harboring reservations about the experience. Eighteen-year-old Paul Jorkinn has indicated he’d prefer a gay roommate, and transfer student Edward Filkers has done the same. Lynn Ritchie, a lifelong resident of the town, registers for music classes despite the fact that she, like many other locals, never cared about the college very much. Occasional student Craig Loomis, having left his factory job, reregisters at Wasserman for one more go. Overseeing the students is administrator Amelia Rosser, who’s personally assigned Edward and Paul to the same room and is fully aware of the potentially controversial nature of that decision. The lengthy narrative stretches over more than 750 pages and revolves around the campus philosophy club, which takes the provocative step of organizing a campus debate regarding homosexuality and religious doctrine. Meanwhile, gay students, including Edward and Paul, push to form an activist gay and lesbian organization—a move that some other students view as radical. As the plans move forward, tensions rise on campus, and a new kind of activism leads to fears of unforeseen consequences. Over the course of Pierce’s epic-length novel, he does a fine job of characterizing university life in the late 1980s, including the intense bigotry toward gay people, which included violence. The various characters are well drawn, for the most part. However, there are also too many people with the surname Smith, which may lead to some confusion. The students’ philosophical discussions can also be rather lengthy, so that the writing starts to feel hazy, and the main thread of the plot gets lost. The impassioned conclusion is an effective one. However, a stronger edit would have trimmed the excess before it.

An earnest but overlong story about philosophy, gay rights, and religion.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2004

ISBN: 978-1-4140-1045-8

Page Count: 740

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2020

THE WOMEN

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

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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