Relentlessly depressing but superbly composed story of a tragically lost soul.

FAIR

A homeless man wanders the streets and beaches of Los Angeles in search of purpose in Seaward’s literary debut.

Eyan has no sense of time and can’t remember how long he’s been on the streets or even his age. He guesses 20, but he looks considerably older, primarily because he had his rotten teeth removed. Though initially alone, he eventually reunites with Marc, a friend from school who lives on Skid Row with “the professor,” a man who once taught at the University of Chicago. This leads Eyan to connect with Paul, another, more dangerous former schoolmate. Paul’s a criminal, often surrounded by his minions, who enlists Eyan as his drug mule since Eyan walks everywhere and, like other homeless in LA, is effectively “invisible.” Paul’s gang is likely responsible for the dead bodies that are periodically turning up, a string of homicides that local detectives don’t seem capable of stopping. Meanwhile, Eyan struggles with thoughts of death and family, and he always carries a notebook that he fills with words he wants to remember. He has sporadic, “shifting” memories, from his mother and his sister’s disappearance during his first and only year of high school to a girl he once knew who committed suicide. It certainly doesn’t help his erratic memories when detectives question Eyan regarding some of the murder victims and ask about the contents of his notebook. Ultimately, Eyan makes a decision that will forever change his life as well as others’.

With few moments or recollections of happiness, Eyan is the quintessential tortured soul. He’s entirely sympathetic and endearing and only grows more so as readers get to know him. Though the story plants itself in dark territory, it’s not devoid of hope; Eyan’s notebook is an especially potent indicator that he continually strives to understand those around him. Seaward’s narrative is smoothly nonlinear, lucidly depicting flashbacks and memories. And while Eyan’s perspective isn’t strictly reliable (he’s completely unaware of how much time passes), supporting characters are distinctive. Marc in particular shows a kindness toward the protagonist that speaks volumes; he’s one of the few people who doesn’t mock Eyan. The author writes in a plain prose steeped in metaphor. For example, Paul’s minions are “eyeless” because they perpetually don mirrored sunglasses that not only quash their identities, but constantly remind Eyan of his own identity when seeing his reflection. Despite parallels between the City of Angels and passages of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which the professor reads to Eyan, Seaward’s tale is sublimely understated. He, for one, often portrays LA as a realistically grim rather than overtly hellish landscape: “Eyan wanders up and down the boardless boardwalk until the crowds thin to the point of disappearing. It is late at night. He finds his special place. The tiny spot he can crawl into, pull his knees to his chin and place a thumb in a toothless mouth.”

Relentlessly depressing but superbly composed story of a tragically lost soul. (about the illustrations; acknowledgements; about the author)

Pub Date: June 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-88984-431-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Porcupine's Quill

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2020

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

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IT STARTS WITH US

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 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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