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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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