A richly detailed and emotionally charged debut.

A WOMAN IS NO MAN

In his last sermon, the Prophet Muhammad said, "Observe your duty to Allah in respect to the women, and treat them well," but in many Muslim countries, tradition relegates women to subservient roles. Isra Hadid, the heroine of Rum's debut novel, has been reminded of this every day of her life.

Unable to complete school in Palestine, where she grew up, Isra was married off by her parents to American deli owner Adam Ra’ad and sent to Brooklyn, New York, where she was forced to live in the crowded Bay Ridge home of her in-laws, Fareeda and Khaled, and their three other children. Almost immediately tensions erupted, and the newly arrived immigrant found herself on the receiving end of near-daily beatings and verbal abuse. Conditions further worsened after Isra gave birth to four daughters in little more than five years—her lack of sons being evidence, Fareeda claims, of Isra’s deficiency. The situation shifts dramatically, however, after Isra and Adam are killed in an accident, leaving their children to be raised by the Ra’ads. Now, a decade after Isra’s and Adam’s deaths, their oldest child, Deya, age 18, receives a mysterious message from an unidentified source, asking her to travel to a Manhattan bookshop. When she does, an estranged family member reveals some jarring truths about the family’s history. More importantly, the disclosure gives Deya the tools she needs to take charge of her life rather than allowing Fareeda and Khaled to marry her off. In a note accompanying an advance copy of her book, Rum acknowledges that writing her intergenerational saga meant "violating [the] code of silence” and might even bring “shame to [her] community.” Nonetheless, in telling this compelling tale, Rum—who was born in Brooklyn to Palestinian immigrants herself—writes that she hopes readers will be moved “by the strength and power of our women.”

A richly detailed and emotionally charged debut.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 9780-0-62-69976-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

WINTER GARDEN

A Russian refugee’s terrible secret overshadows her family life.

Meredith, heir apparent to her family’s thriving Washington State apple enterprises, and Nina, a globetrotting photojournalist, grew up feeling marginalized by their mother. Anya saw her daughters as merely incidental to her grateful love for their father Evan, who rescued her from a German prison camp. The girls know neither their mother’s true age, nor the answers to several other mysteries: her color-blindness, her habit of hoarding food despite the family’s prosperity and the significance of her “winter garden” with its odd Cyrillic-inscribed columns. The only thawing in Anya’s mien occurs when she relates a fairy tale about a peasant girl who meets a prince and their struggles to live happily ever after during the reign of a tyrannical Black Knight. After Evan dies, the family comes unraveled: Anya shows signs of dementia; Nina and Meredith feud over whether to move Mom from her beloved dacha-style home, named Belye Nochi after the summer “white nights” of her native Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Anya, now elderly but of preternaturally youthful appearance—her white hair has been that way as long as the girls can remember—keeps babbling about leather belts boiled for soup, furniture broken up for firewood and other oddities. Prompted by her daughters’ snooping and a few vodka-driven dinners, she grudgingly divulges her story. She is not Anya, but Vera, sole survivor of a Russian family; her father, grandmother, mother, sister, husband and two children were all lost either to Stalin’s terror or during the German army’s siege of Leningrad. Anya’s chronicle of the 900-day siege, during which more than half a million civilians perished from hunger and cold, imparts new gravitas to the novel, easily overwhelming her daughters’ more conventional “issues.” The effect, however, is all but vitiated by a manipulative and contrived ending.

Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-36412-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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