An occasionally moving and tender work of autofiction that depicts the obsessive interiority of grief.

LET'S HOPE FOR THE BEST

In this debut from Stockholm-based writer Setterwall, a real-life relationship becomes the basis of a novel about anxiety, motherhood, and trauma.

Carolina is an adventurous concert promoter who falls fast and hard for quiet Aksel, a freelancer. "I'm thirty, and my love life is a mess," she admits, detailing her failed relationships and attempts to address bad romantic patterns in therapy. An anxious but eager girlfriend, she pushes the two across milestone after milestone while circumspect Aksel agrees to be pushed. "If I just wait a few hours, you come back," she muses. "I'm starting to learn your patterns. I'm starting to figure out how to exist in your world." But things shift when the new couple moves into their suburban Stockholm apartment and Carolina admits to wanting a baby. Despite Aksel's hesitations, Carolina resolves to find a way to both have a child and keep Aksel in her life. "Our negotiations are not beautiful," she recalls. "Neither of us ever leaves the kitchen table feeling good." Then, when their son, Ivan, is only a few months old, Aksel dies suddenly in his sleep. To cope with her grief, Carolina chronicles their relationship, from the day they first met until their son turns 2 and romance finds her yet again. Addressed directly to Aksel, the twin narratives of excitement and grief depict Carolina's obsession with both being and having this particular partner. Like grief itself, the narrative is exhausting and exhaustive, as Carolina accumulates details to learn more about her need to control relationships in the face of real or manufactured chaos. Her sentences are spare and simple, and they reveal a portrait of anxiety and control, grief and abandonment, that lasts for many painful years. "How can I hold onto you when you're not here?" she asks. "How can I move on without the approval of the people in our life who matter the most to me? The equation seems unsolvable."

An occasionally moving and tender work of autofiction that depicts the obsessive interiority of grief.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48962-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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