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THE MONSOON WAR

Shah ups the action and the stakes in this second foray into a feminist dystopia.

A women’s fighting force becomes embroiled in a war to liberate their country from an oppressive patriarchal regime.

In this sequel to Shah’s Before She Sleeps (2018), readers return to Mazun, a Middle Eastern country formed after a nuclear war between Pakistan and India. In the long aftermath of that “Final War”—due partly to fallout and partly to “the Virus,” a cancer mutation that killed only women—society was left with a surplus of men. Thus, the women in Mazun are forced to take multiple husbands and bear as many children as possible. Some women take refuge in the Panah, an urban underground network of companions to wealthy men, as told in Shah’s first Mazun novel. Here, Shah offers a wider view of collective resistances. There is Alia, a rural wife in a rugged mountain village who appears a dutiful member of the system but who resists by raising her daughters as boys (lest they be plucked up by “Collectors” and married away) and by serving as an Ababeel: “a secret spy and helper of the Hamiyat”—a band of female insurgents that has existed since the time of the war. Alia’s contact in the Hamiyat is Katy Azadeh, a young fighter currently being nursed back to health in Semitria, a utopian neighboring country, after an attack. Katy herself is under the command of Fatima Kara, though she soon discovers that Kara, and the entire Hamiyat, is in the hands of powers larger than she could have ever guessed. Shah moves through multiple women’s perspectives, each playing different roles as resistors, and though the story may contain familiar tropes, the result is a cinematic mashup of spy tale, geopolitical SF, and war epic.

Shah ups the action and the stakes in this second foray into a feminist dystopia.

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9781953002235

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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