A passionate meditation on art wrapped in a hilarious sendup of artistic pretensions.


A magic elixir that confers stupendous creative powers on talentless people sets the art world on its ear in this satirical novel.

When Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art sets up a “BE AN ARTIST” stunt exhibition that lets ordinary museumgoers try their hands at art, what emerges are the two greatest works of the age: Ragnarök and Roll, a Play-Doh sculpture of a bomb made by a foul-mouthed 10-year-old named Timmy O’Donnell, and Migration, a paper bird mobile by 73-year-old tyro Tabitha Masterson. Art students start worshipping Masterson as the goddess Bitha. Mediocre art critic Jasper Duckworth figures he can make his reputation by championing the two prodigies, but soon a disappointing truth emerges: Their bolt-from-the-blue artistic capabilities are the result of imbibing water from the MCA’s third-floor drinking fountain. The fountain’s potion grants everyone who swallows it the capacity to produce just one magnificent piece—and then kills the artist. The implications roil the denizens of Chicago’s art scene. Struggling sculptor Jawbone Walker drinks the water and makes an arty chair that priapically invigorates an older man who sits in it; Ross Robards, a legless Vietnam veteran and mass-market painter, abhors the fountain’s potential to make anyone an effortlessly great artist, especially because it competes with his own promise to teach anyone how to be a great artist through his instructional TV show. Sculptor Bob Bellio rejects the water but then has his sublime pieces dismissed as products of the fountain; schoolteacher-turned–art-groupie Emma—she specializes in plaster casts of genitalia—sees her libido intensify after she sips the water; and Duckworth schemes to take advantage of the water’s power without consuming it himself.

Hay’s yarn is a cynical, bawdy spoof of an art establishment whose cult of idealism and authenticity barely camouflages a crass hunger for fame and fortune. (“What have you done, Timmy? Duckworth thinks. You’ve ruined this masterpiece and turned it into the media’s culpability in war, genocide, and homelessness....But then a clearer notion: I’ve got an exclusive.”) Yet the raucous novel also takes the artistic life and creative process seriously. (“Once, maybe twice,” Bob “consciously uses a technique he learned from somewhere; the rest of the time it is pure instinct. Pure flow. Pure energy….The earth is a scratched stained wooden table. The sky behind him, a place where the sparks of tiny pieces of metal from the grinding wheel shoot up like tiny rockets.”) The author is given to flights of surrealism: “You’ve been grifting and scamming them with your camera…you’re a fraud,” a talking squirrel says, egging on a suicidal photographer. Hay’s writerly voice sounds a bit like David Foster Wallace in a gonzo vein, with lots of cultural riffs, esoteric footnotes, a profusion of characters and subplots with obscure connections, and imagery that’s sensual and evocative but in a coolly analytical way. (A man “turns and catches Not Trudy loping with a laid back stride, hips swinging freely but not for show. All her movements utilize an additional five degrees of body movement, giving her not an exaggerated effect, but one of a body enjoying being in motion.”) It’s a baggy story with third-act problems, but the author’s gorgeous prose and comic inventiveness make for an entrancing read.

A passionate meditation on art wrapped in a hilarious sendup of artistic pretensions.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952600-04-3

Page Count: 433

Publisher: Whisk(e)y Tit

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.


When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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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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