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ROLE PLAY

An unsparing critique of Brazil’s young elites.

Thirty-something Vivian must confront the uncomfortable fact of her enormous privilege.

Vivian lives in an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, bought by her parents for her 30th birthday, which is decorated with designer furniture and prints from a series showing at the local art museum. She’s a freelance curator, one who can afford to take resume-boosting jobs—when money’s tight, she rents out her apartment and moves back into one of her family’s four properties. In her free time, she goes to raves and snorts cocaine with her friends, all of whom are part of Brazil’s cultural elite. Vivian operates in such a rarified realm that she’s been taught she is upper-middle-class—the true upper echelon, in her eyes, have their own private planes. This self-perception is at once deluded and not inaccurate, creating “a sense of inferiority that is very specific, kind of comic and also kinda sad.” One night, as Vivian and friends are in line for a rave, police attack two street vendors, one of whom usually works on Vivian’s street and from whom she often buys beer. Vivian and her friends flee the violence by entering the rave venue; much later, she learns that the vendor, Darlene, has died from a head wound, presumably inflicted by the police that night. Vivian is not a total stranger to dark and unpleasant feelings—she’s been heavily medicated for mental illness since the age of 10—but this violence, so abrupt and so close in proximity, needles her. But can it shock her out of the cocoon of her own privilege? Drummond’s narrative voice is fiercely honest, coolly cynical, and sharply scathing: “What was I supposed to feel: Grief, guilt, indifference, sadness? It was like I’d entered a new environment whose codes I didn’t properly know, and I was supposed to understand, intuitively, how to behave and act in the moment, based on that understanding.” Vivian is not an especially appealing character; and yet, remarkably, Drummond manages to elicit readers’ empathy for her, mining her most fundamental and human flaws and insecurities.

An unsparing critique of Brazil’s young elites.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9780374611286

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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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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