Next book

GRAY

An impressive tale, wonderfully plotted and detailed, about a woman starting over.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

This debut novel, set in New England and on the Greek island of Naxos, flirts with the bodice-ripper genre but then turns into something far different.

Vera Mine, a young 55, is sitting near her dying father, Warren, in a Massachusetts hospital room in this tale’s opening scene. After an agonizing few days, Warren does die, leaving Vera drained and totally bereft. She is divorced and childless. She loved her husband, Max, but he left her and gained “a stereotypical trophy wife.” (The therapists all agreed that Vera’s resistance to sex was the problem.) Financially well off, she decides to go to Naxos. There, she hopes to recover from her grief and start anew, practicing her painting (she’s a creditable amateur) and remaining open to adventure. Naxos, of course, is that most romantic of places, conjuring up Zorba and numerous Greek island clichés. On the ferry from Athens, she meets the embodiment of it all: Demetri, a kind of dark-haired Greek Fabio. He is friendly; his English is better than her Greek; and he and his wife and children live close to her rented cottage. She is coming back to life and so is her libido. Demetri often comes over (how does he get his farming done?) and asks to borrow her laptop to “check his email.” Greece is grappling with the draconian measures that the European Union put in place to make the country pay off its debts. Demetri often rants about this fraught situation. After some months, the protagonist’s old friend Sean, who, as the buddy convention goes, knows Vera better than she knows herself, pays a visit. He messes around in her laptop and finds that things are very bad (and dangerous) indeed.

Revealing further developments would spoil the story. That said, the ending delivers a delightful twist, an upsetting of expectations worthy of a mordant O. Henry. Roy is a very talented writer, often wickedly so, as when she describes Vera’s ditzy sister and her clueless uncle while Warren is dying (and the outrageous obit that these two write). Or Vera’s face-off with an officious dweeb in a dog park (she usually says fuckonly in her mind, but more and more she is shouting it at people who deserve it, a mark of her coming into her own). There are also moving, poetic passages on such unlikely things as hospital room numbers (“Suddenly, the numbers were briefly serene, leaned toward her, swaying: appealed to her humbly and modestly—gently asked her to stop, to please listen, to pause for a moment and rest, yes, rest”). In addition, the author deftly describes Demetri’s two kids. Vera is very perceptive, and it is clear that Elektra is Demetri’s favorite and that things are not well between Tasso and his father (as readers will see). Vera came to Greece steeped in its mythic history, enamored of Athena’s “metis.” Eventually, she will discover if she shares Athena’s “wisdom and cunning,” as most hold metis to mean. There are epigraphs heading the chapters, which tend to be short, and Roy keeps things moving along briskly. The point of view is Vera’s, third-person limited. Why it is not Vera, first person, will become quite apparent at the very end.

An impressive tale, wonderfully plotted and detailed, about a woman starting over.

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73751-660-6

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Middlesex Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 117


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 117


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 87


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 87


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

Close Quickview