BILLIE STARR'S BOOK OF SORRIES

A grim literary mystery and a hopeful family story, this genre-blending novel manages to be both charming and heartbreaking.

A down-on-her-luck single mom takes a job that ends up changing her life—and endangering her family—in this funny yet bitingly realistic look at small-town life.

In the town of Benson, Indiana, Jenny Newberg is having a hard time. She can’t pay her bills, her ex (and the father of her daughter) won’t leave her alone, her mother criticizes every choice she makes, and she’s always disappointing her daughter, Billie Starr, a second grader. So when mysterious men in black suits approach and ask her to do one simple job—seduce a man running for governor so they can take down his campaign—she agrees. The job isn’t as easy as she’d expected, though. The men never pay her, and the man running for governor asks her to work as his receptionist. With no better job prospects on the horizon and a debt collector knocking on her door, Jenny agrees. Soon, she finds herself fielding mysterious phone calls, getting threatening faxes, and wondering what, exactly, she’s been caught up in. At the same time, Jenny has to deal with the eccentric characters in her life—her newly engaged mother, the neighbor who’s known for wielding a crossbow in public, the annoyingly perfect moms at school, and everyone else who seems out to get her. But it’s when the mysterious callers threaten what Jenny loves most that her life really starts to spiral out of control. Kennedy excels at writing quirky characters and entertaining dialogue, but what sets the story apart is the shimmering thread of dread that runs through all of Jenny’s thoughts and interactions. Although Kennedy imbues Jenny’s life with the sparkle of humor, the quiet desperation of her sometimes-bleak existence grounds the story in reality.

A grim literary mystery and a hopeful family story, this genre-blending novel manages to be both charming and heartbreaking.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-13843-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WOMEN

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 18


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
  • 121


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

IT STARTS WITH US

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 121


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

Close Quickview