An absorbing and complex novel shines a light on chattel slavery in Puerto Rico.


An enslaved woman finds that human bonds sustain her even amid the cruelties of plantation life.

As a teenager in the early 19th century, Keera is kidnapped from her home in Yorubaland by slave traders. She is sold to the owner of Hacienda Paraiso, a plantation in Puerto Rico. He makes dual use of the women he enslaves: They work the sugar cane fields, and they are kept almost constantly pregnant, their babies taken away and sold right after birth. The novel opens with Keera, renamed Pola, making a desperate escape attempt after years of loss drive her close to madness. She ends up on Hacienda Las Mercedes, another sugar cane plantation but one with somewhat more humane owners—Pola is astonished to see enslaved children living there with their families. She’s been savagely beaten and gang-raped, but she recovers under the care of Rufina, a curandera, and two other older women who, although they are enslaved, have a degree of autonomy because of their talents for curing, cooking, and directing the plantation’s workshop that produces lucrative fine needlework and dresses. When she’s well, she becomes a protégé of all three, assisting Rufina in her healing arts, learning to cook in Pastora’s fine kitchen, and serving as a cutter and helper to Tia Josefa’s needleworkers. Llanos-Figueroa draws a detailed picture of social hierarchy on the plantation, not just that of owners and the enslaved, but the status system among the workers, based on the kind of work they do, which is in turn based on colorism—darker-skinned people are assigned to the grueling tasks like cutting cane, while the lighter-skinned (often mixed race) people work in the big house, serving tea and sewing ball gowns. Pola, who is dark, becomes an exception to the rule and the object of resentment. She also becomes the object of desire of a strong, stoic worker named Simon, but her hatred of men stands between them. Her heart does warm for Chachita, an orphan girl she finds living on her own in the woods. Chachita fills the empty spot in Pola’s heart left by her stolen babies, but helping the child puts them both at risk. Llanos-Figueroa’s prose is lively, her characters vivid. The last part of the book loses steam when it shifts into romance mode, but it’s a moving and engaging tale.

An absorbing and complex novel shines a light on chattel slavery in Puerto Rico.

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-306222-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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