An immersive novel of friendship and transcendent phenomena.



A woman attempts to cure her friend of frequent trips to the other side in Shearer’s debut novel.

Loretta Sparkman is going through a midlife crisis—or, as she prefers to describe it, turning into a zombie—due in part, perhaps, to her husband Matthias’ ongoing struggle with cancer. She’s also just reunited with her best friend, Jenny Black, who has come to stay with the Sparkmans after five years of absence from their lives. The first thing Jenny wants to talk about is near-death experiences. “Not having a bad scare or thinking you might die,” Jenny clarifies. “The other thing. When you go through a tunnel, float above your body, see dead relatives, your life flashes before you.” Loretta has never had one. Jenny has had 22. In the past year. They come to her out of the blue, whisking Jenny to a netherworld where she can communicate with the spirits of people who have already died. Why are they happening? What does it mean? Jenny wants Loretta, who works as a spokesperson for a university, to ask around the faculty and see if anyone might know something about NDEs. Loretta will do what she can, though a university scandal involving race and artificial insemination is taking up most of her time. Can the two old friends figure out just what these NDEs mean before Jenny gets trapped on the wrong side of death for good? Shearer’s prose has a lively precision, toggling between humor and urgency as needed. Here, one of Jenny’s episodes occurs in a lab: “Jenny nods, her body begins to go limp. Loretta rushes forward, grabs her beneath her arms and half-drags, half-pulls her to the machine. ‘It’s happening, now, it’s happening!’ she yells. The director is shouting, ‘Roll tape, run sound, places everyone, the event is coming, now! Go!’ ” The novel is as interested in the meaning of near-death experiences as the characters are, and the book as a whole serves as a rumination on the nature of life, birth, and death. While the plot sometimes dawdles, it’s an engaging, enjoyable story of attempting to find the right balance—at least while on this side of the grave.

An immersive novel of friendship and transcendent phenomena.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73451-974-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Pumpjack Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.


When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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