A well-balanced comic tale that deftly grapples with larger contemporary themes.


In this debut novel, a pair of brothers weathers the changing fortunes of a failing New England town.

Pennacook, Massachusetts, has seen better days: “What they’d soon call the Great Recession had just unmasked itself to the world, but it seemed to have gotten a head start here.” The depressed mill town’s affordability is why Ray Markham chose to settle there five years ago, after his parents were killed in a car accident and the recent high school graduate became the legal guardian of his younger brother, Patrick. Since then, Ray has worked at the deli counter of the local chain grocery store, Bounty Bag, while Patrick has made his way through the town’s not-so-good public school system. Bounty Bag happens to be the largest employer and the primary landowner in Pennacook. (The chain may also be partially responsible for the town’s substantial population of wild boars.) Dr. Regina Chong, principal of Patrick’s high school, is supporting a referendum to override the local tax cap to fund a desperately needed new school building, but for her plan to work, she needs to spur voter turnout among the generally disengaged electorate. Her scheme is thrown into jeopardy when a management shake-up at Bounty Bag—and the resulting push for automation—inspires the workers to rise up in protest. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Patrick has been getting into trouble, showing up to track practice drunk, dyeing his hair electric blue, and “running away” to stay in a friend’s basement. While Ray navigates the changing landscape of Bounty Bag with his colorful co-workers—odd characters like Muscles Carbonara, Toothless Mary, and The Alfredo—Patrick learns a bit of American history from his terminally ill teacher Mr. Grant, who helps him put the instabilities of capitalism and democracy in perspective. Can the Markhams manage to stay afloat, even if Pennacook itself is going down?

Giroux’s prose is reminiscent of Richard Russo’s writing: intricate and incisive, though always full of warmth and humor. Giroux particularly shines when chronicling the rules and rule breakers of Bounty Bag: “Every law and the Bounty Bag Code were against Toothless Mary’s smoking in Deli, but before the store opened she did it anyway and left her hair unwrapped too. During business hours, she smoked on the Golden Mile, the long, wide lane out back used for trash and Deliveries. Sometimes she returned from the Golden Mile with little pieces of garbage attached to her.” The author ambitiously sets out to say something about the state of the contemporary American town, subject to the whims of corporations, distracted voters, and shortsighted politicians. He manages to achieve that goal without drifting too far into didacticism or oversimplification. The characters are believable even as they are peculiar, and readers will have no trouble sympathizing with their various attempts to stay employed—or simply to remain sane. Patrick is a particularly well-drawn figure. Readers will not regret their time spent in Pennacook and will likely keep an eye out for whatever lighthearted dramas Giroux puts his pen to in the future.

A well-balanced comic tale that deftly grapples with larger contemporary themes.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73422-400-9

Page Count: 290

Publisher: New Salem Books

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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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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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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