A quietly remarkable offering from the first name in Basque literature.

WATER OVER STONES

Deep slices of life from the Basque Country evoke the beauty and banality of the world.

Elías hasn’t spoken since returning from college to the village of Ugarte, spending his time carving a toy boat alongside local twins Luis and Martín. Bakery employees Donato and Eliseo serve in Franco’s army barracks, secretly sheltering a magpie while they await their discharge. A coal mine engineer named Antoine blames Eliseo for his dog’s death and suspects Martín of sabotaging his lab in the name of Maoism.These are just some details of the plot—somehow both expansive and intimate, straightforward and elliptical—described by Atxaga in languid, unadorned prose. Scenes have room to breathe and often conclude without fanfare; conversational dialogue, poetic imagery, and small gestures rather than propulsive conflict advance the story. Particular attention is paid to pedestrian scenic metadata such as the date, time of day, and weather. Atxaga helped translate his book from the original Basque to Spanish, and the crisp Spanish-to-English translation is courtesy of longtime Atxaga collaborators Jull Costa and Bunstead. The language teems with repetition; each character frequently returns to different topics of fixation: Antoine thinks his therapist resembles Raisa Gorbacheva; Luis hears the soundtrack to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly in his head. The undramatic innocuousness of the story is eerie, as though anything could happen. So, what is the point? What are these sections—almost interconnected novellas—building toward? As Luis asks himself: “Was there anything significant about that coincidence? Who knows?” Atxaga inspires trust from the reader through his authorial command. There is indeed a method to the madness and an unexpected payoff that meaningfully reframes the entire book.

A quietly remarkable offering from the first name in Basque literature.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64445-095-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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