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THE LAST HOUSE ON THE STREET

A mild-mannered mystery with a moral quagmire at its heart.

Chamberlain’s tale of mid-1960s freedom fighters intersects with contemporary tragedy.

This is a novel of alternating timelines, each unspooling in or near Round Hill, a small town in North Carolina. In 2010, architect Kayla Carter is visited by Ann Smith, a “sixty-five or seventy”-year-old woman in mirrored sunglasses, who comes to her office seemingly intent on scaring her. Ann, a stranger, knows too much about Kayla, including that she has a small daughter, that she’s about to move into a new house in an upscale but isolated new development, and that it's a house she had intended to share with her husband, Jackson, who died of an accidental fall at the construction site. In 1965, 20-year-old Ellie Hockley, a student at the University of North Carolina, joins SCOPE, a summer project recruiting mostly White, Northern college students to help Black Southerners register to vote in anticipation of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Ellie is the rare White Southern volunteer. Her father and mother are vehemently opposed, her brother, Buddy, somewhat less vehemently. Fatefully, Ellie is assigned to work with a SCOPE contingent operating in her home county. Early on, we learn Kayla’s new house is on Hockley Street, where Buddy still lives in the family home that once was the only house in this wooded area. It’s not long before past wrongs come home to roost. Ellie, now 65, returns after decades in San Francisco to care for her ailing brother and mother. The moment when Ellie, who at first warms to her new neighbor, realizes that Kayla is the daughter of Reed, the beau she forsook for the Civil Rights movement, is a classic Chamberlain complication. The plot will only get more complicated because, in contrast to a White rescue story, we find even well-meaning Whites endangering Black people. The forbidding, kudzu-choked forest, complete with a treehouse, a murky pond, and an ominous clearing, is ideal for a coverup that compromises even the most irreproachable characters.

A mild-mannered mystery with a moral quagmire at its heart.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2502-6796-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

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

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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

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IT STARTS WITH US

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

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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

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