These battles are fought with pens, stick figures, tender drawings on a child’s back; silent screams are in the background.

HAO

A ribbon of frustration unfurls through this collection of 12 short stories that chronicle the efforts of Chinese and Chinese American women seeking to speak the truth about their lives.

The experiences of Ye’s heroines—and one hero of legend, Cangjie—run from the court of the Yellow Emperor to the era of internet dating, but an inability to communicate marks all the tales. In the first story, "Stars," Luyao, a graduate student in economics who's also a wife and mother, is rendered mute by a stroke; though she's bilingual, she struggles to regain language, any language, beyond the only phrase she can utter: “hao.” (Hao, the most common word in Chinese, can be translated as good and is symbolized traditionally by a kneeling woman holding a child.) In the title story, Qingxin, another young mother, tortured during the Cultural Revolution, literally eats some of her words to avoid further persecution while attempting to create the semblance of normalcy for her child by playing a calming word game. Yun, an internet bride in "Crazy English," wrestles with ways to deter a stalker she first noticed at the library, balancing the unspoken against the spoken. Ancestral experiences echo throughout the dozen stories as Ye’s protagonists battle cyclical repressions and common losses: Feet are bound, children are lost, and husbands are absent, heedless, or worse. The need to understand and communicate these miseries drives Ye’s women to speak in any way they can. An opposite need, that of a mother to comfort a child, propels as well. Two of the stories, “Hao” and “Milk,” were awarded Pushcart Prizes, but all of these sensitive tales amplify voices that have often been silenced.

These battles are fought with pens, stick figures, tender drawings on a child’s back; silent screams are in the background.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64622-060-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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