A searingly insightful, tragicomic adventure that lays bare personal and political fault lines.

ENEMY COMBATANT

An American man in turmoil pursues a disastrous plan to right the wrongs of extraordinary rendition in this novel.

When he was growing up, Peter Shipman saw his father—once a fiery activist for civil rights and against the Vietnam War—descend into an angry, liquor-fueled viewer of fight-the-system movies. Admiring his father’s principles, if not the man himself, Peter becomes determined to wage similar battles; “Jim Crow was dead, but there was Ronald Reagan to contend with.” Now, in 2005, 32-year-old Peter designs web pages and is married to Sarah, a prosecuting attorney expecting their first child. Learning that his mother, Alice, is failing after a botched emergency surgery, Peter rushes from Brooklyn to Phoenix. At his dying mother’s hospital bed, Peter boils over with rage at everyone he holds responsible, not just the heart surgeon, but also Arizona itself (full of Republicans), the George W. Bush administration, and its war crimes. Back home, Peter waits for Sarah to go to bed every night. He then gets wasted and doomscrolls the internet: “He wasn’t normally what you’d call an angry drunk, but the words Bush, torture, Arizona, and Alice burned through his gut like savage heart burn.” When things come to a head, Sarah kicks him out for four months, their future reconciliation depending on whether he gains equilibrium. An invitation abroad from his similarly debauched college roommate, Leonard Kaufman, promises a welcome distraction until, on a trip through Georgia, Peter learns of secret CIA prisons there and in nearby Armenia. Peter conceives a desperate plan to find one of the prisons, photograph it, break in, and release the inmates with Leonard’s help. Though Peter and Leonard couldn’t be more unqualified, the misbegotten, sometimes comic mission has some unlikely success but inevitably is marred by an unforgettable and futile tragedy.

In his third novel, Winner constructs a train-wreck scenario that readers can’t look away from no matter how gruesome it becomes. While the two friends’ goals are laughably out of reach, the author makes each step of the journey plausible in itself as Peter and Leonard stumble through one misadventure after another, degenerating all the way. Winner also manages the feat of giving these escapades the taut excitement of a macho-patriotic action thriller—or rather, its warped, fun-house-mirror reflection. Many readers will sympathize with Peter’s fury at the government’s role in torturing prisoners held in black-op sites and understand his fantasy of doing something about it. But the author’s subtle, intelligent characterization makes clear that however well-earned Peter’s rage against the machine is, that machine is also a convenient target that allows him to displace intolerable emotions or avoid honest self-evaluation. Similarly, Peter deflects grappling with how he’s destroying his marriage by caricaturing Sarah as someone who’s always playing the prosecutor during their arguments: “She couldn’t say, ‘objection, your honor,’ because she wasn’t in the courtroom.” In the end, Peter remains rightly haunted by his actions and their poignant consequences.

A searingly insightful, tragicomic adventure that lays bare personal and political fault lines.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-944853-75-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tablo

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

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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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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