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THE NEW WILDERNESS

This ecological horror story (particularly horrifying now) explores painful regions of the human heart.

In a dystopian future, a woman and her daughter leave behind the increasingly unlivable conditions of the all-consuming City, where most of the population is trapped, to join a survival study in the Wilderness State.

As part of the study, Bea and Agnes have been members of the Community since it began when Agnes was a “frail, failing little girl.” The Community, originally 20 adults and children before various births and deaths, travels the wild as a ragtag pack, rife with typical internal politics. Members carry their few possessions on their backs and eat what they can forage and kill by hand or bow, leaving no human traces in their wake. They live according to the Manual, watched over from afar by the Rangers who make sure everyone follows the Manual’s rules. Bea misses aspects of her urban life, however difficult it was, but her powers of psychological observation make her “good at this survival thing.” Agnes, whose “health cratered” from breathing City air—the reason Bea joined the study—is now vitally healthy, with a natural instinct for primitive skills. As she tells the grown-ups, “follow the animals.” The viewpoint shifts over time from prickly, tormented Bea, whose romantic loyalties are unclear but whose motherly protectiveness is fiercely all-consuming, to Agnes, who grows up in a world where natural order trumps human-made rules. The push-pull of ambivalent but powerful love between mother and daughter centers the novel. Cook writes about desperate people in a world of ever shrinking livable space and increasingly questionable resources like air and water but also about the resilience of children who adapt, even enjoying circumstances that overwhelm the adults around them. Cook also raises uncomfortable questions: How far will a person go to survive, and what sacrifices will she or won’t she make for those she loves?

This ecological horror story (particularly horrifying now) explores painful regions of the human heart.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06233-313-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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THE FIVE-STAR WEEKEND

The people in her books may screw up, but Hilderbrand always gets it right. Kind of amazing.

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A dreamy Nantucket house party given by a meticulous hostess goes off the rails.

“When Hollis posts a potato and white cheddar tart with a crispy bacon crust, her foodie community breaks the one-million-member milestone. (Leave it to bacon!)” And leave it to Hilderbrand, in her 30th book of Nantucket-based fiction, to cook up more literary bacon, this time focusing on female friendship, female “friendship,” and the power of the internet and social media. When Hollis Shaw's doctor husband dies in a crash on the way to the airport, she steps back from Hungry With Hollis, her popular website. After moping around her house in “Swellesley” for a while, she returns to Nantucket for the summer, planning a kick-out-the-stops weekend party that will involve one girlfriend from each phase of her life—youth, college, motherhood—plus her favorite internet follower, an Atlanta-based airline pilot, whom she's never actually met. Two of these old pals are definitely not as close to Hollis as they once were, one of them has done her secret harm, and Hollis dramatically increases the potential for trouble by paying her angry 20-something daughter to document the weekend on film. Add two bottles each of Casa Dragones tequila, Triple 8 vodka, and Veuve Clicquot, plus some Hendricks gin and Mount Gay rum—what could possibly go wrong? Known for gently inserting social commentary into her plots, Hilderbrand here highlights the ridiculous fickleness of cancel culture when one of the characters—Dru-Ann, an extremely successful Black sports agent—almost loses her clients, her job, and her boyfriend when a video clip of a private conversation in a restaurant is posted on social media. Everyone says there's no way forward without a self-effacing apology. Dru-Ann says pass the Casa Dragones. Meanwhile, Hollis is about to learn that friendships forged on the internet are not always what they seem. Hilderbrand has announced plans to retire in 2024. Wait—that's next year! No!

The people in her books may screw up, but Hilderbrand always gets it right. Kind of amazing.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 9780316258777

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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