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WE ALL WANT IMPOSSIBLE THINGS

A warm and remarkably funny book about death and caregiving that will make readers laugh through their tears.

A woman takes care of her dying best friend while handling her own messy life.

Edith and Ashley have been best friends for most of their lives. They’ve been there for each other during their greatest joys and struggles—marriages, infertility, and raising children. Now, though, Ash has to support Edi through their greatest, most heartbreaking challenge yet—Edi’s death. When Edi’s ovarian cancer progresses to the point that treatment is no longer an option, they decide she should stay at a hospice near Ash’s home in Massachusetts, leaving Edi's husband and young son back in Brooklyn. Ash spends most of her time in Edi’s hospice room, bringing Edi the food she requests, talking to the nurses, and handling an environment that is both horrifically bleak and hilariously odd—Fiddler on the Roof blares from one resident’s room every afternoon, as if it’s the soundtrack to everyone’s death. But as Ash takes care of Edi, she also has her own chaotic life to worry about. She has two lovely, nearly grown daughters whom she adores. She has a complicated relationship with her ex-husband, whom she never technically divorced and who spends most of his time at her house. And she’s sleeping with several people who are either on Edi’s care team or in Edi’s family, which leads to some awkward situations. Ash makes for a unique and easy-to-love narrator, one who jokes about her own self-centeredness even as she devotes her time to helping her best friend. Newman is frank about the physical reality of cancer and explicitly shows how grueling it can be to care for a friend while watching them die—there are falls and tears, leaking tubes that soak Edi in bile, and gradual changes to Edi’s appearance and mental state as the end draws nearer. As Ash says, “It’s monstrous. It is too much to take. Why do we even do this—love anybody? Our dumb animal hearts.” But Newman is also open and honest about how joy can commingle with grief and how happiness and gratitude can coexist with sorrow: “Life is just seesawing between the gorgeous and the menacing—like when you go for a run and one minute the whole neighborhood is lilacs in purple bloom, and then the next it’s stained boxer shorts and an inside-out latex glove.” Newman perfectly captures the beauty and burden of caring for someone in their final moments while showing the gift of Edi and Ash’s once-in-a-lifetime friendship.

A warm and remarkably funny book about death and caregiving that will make readers laugh through their tears.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-323-089-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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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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SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

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A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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