All the ingredients of a dark speculative tale imperfectly assembled.

SLEEPWALK

A mercenary’s life is upended by the appearance of his (perhaps) daughter and a series of attendant problems.

The narrator of Chaon’s disappointing fourth novel is a 50-year-old fixer/courier hired to perform “petty acts of industrial espionage or [mess] with the results of a local school board election.” (The near-future U.S. is mostly offscreen, but pandemics, recessions, and blockades led by hair-trigger private militias are disruptive enough to necessitate such independent contractors.) Billy (one of his many aliases) is interrupted on the road by repeated calls from Cammie, a young woman claiming not only that she’s his daughter via a sperm donation made in his youth, but that he has many more offspring besides. Billy is troubled not just by the news, but by the breach of security that allowed Cammie to reach him, and plenty more paranoia ensues. Is Cammie an agent of somebody he’s fallen afoul of or a bot? Flashbacks to Billy’s past explain his various reasons for anxiety, from his mother on down, and Chaon gives his lead an appealingly noirish, skeptical voice. In his earlier fiction, Chaon demonstrated a talent for conjuring dark moods and characters with fractured families, so a dystopian tale that reshuffles traditional stories about midlife crises and long-lost children would seem a fine fit for him. But this novel never quite finds its footing, shifting from backstory to an increasingly convoluted assortment of cult types and mercenaries; it doesn’t help that the central relationship between Billy and Cammie is conducted via phone, which brings a chilly distance to the narrative. The technology Chaon imagines is diverting—large, menacing, farm-protecting robots, suspiciously adorable surveillance drones—but the most tender relationship is a B-plot involving Billy and his dog, whose travails are sometimes more interesting than the humans'.

All the ingredients of a dark speculative tale imperfectly assembled.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-17521-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

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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IT STARTS WITH US

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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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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