PREPARE HER

STORIES

Wistful tales rendered with delicate writing and powerful perception.

Meditative short stories about the befuddling domestic lives of women and girls in northern New England.

The stories in this debut collection are full of horses. Certainly, horses are common in the landscapes of rural Vermont, where these tales are usually set, but they are absolutely everywhere here, alongside narrators whose demanding young children and difficult marriages make their daily lives gray and exhausting. Often the horses are symbols of comfort: In “Farmer, Angel,” a young trail guide’s horse acts as a buffer between her and a customer with ill intent. In “Arla Had Horses,” a schoolgirl tries to navigate an odd friendship with her Jehovah’s Witness classmate by helping her brush the filthy horses the girl owns. Elsewhere, horses remember their wildness. In the opening story, “Something for a Young Woman,” a young mother, Allison, and her son are thrown from a horse belonging to Allison’s mother-in-law, an event that is tangled up with both what is to come for Allison (leaving her patient, boring husband) and her past (an uncategorizable relationship with her former boss, an antiques shop owner). It is this unpredictability, both human and animal, that is magnified in one of Plunkett’s most memorable stories, “Rodeo,” in which another young mother takes her toddler to the rodeo as an afternoon escape from her husband, who is deteriorating into mental illness, only to watch a horse become fatally injured during the event. Although the narrators blend together as variations on a single theme, Plunkett’s strength is in the patience and precision of her interior and exterior landscapes. Like horses, too, these stories are full of beauty and elegance but also inscrutability, with Plunkett content to braid scenes and images together and let the mystery of their relationships abide.

Wistful tales rendered with delicate writing and powerful perception.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64622-040-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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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

GIRL ABROAD

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

A rock star’s daughter decides to study abroad in search of her own experiences, finding romance and intrigue along the way.

For 19-year-old Abbey Bly, having a rock star for a father isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For one thing, she shares her name with Abbey Road, and for another, the only version of the famous Gunner Bly she knows is the helicopter parent she lives with in Nashville. Hoping to find her way outside her father’s sphere of influence, Abbey decides to spend a semester in London studying European history at Pembridge University. Promising to keep her father updated on every aspect of life abroad, Abbey heads to her shared apartment expecting to find three female roommates…only to find that she’s actually living with three men. Afraid that Gunner will order her home, Abbey decides to keep Lee, Jack, and Jamie’s gender a secret (lucky their names sound androgynous!) and sets her sights on adventure. While working on a research project about a mysterious painting and adapting to Britain’s drinking culture, Abbey finds time to explore a little romance despite her housemates’ strict no-fraternizing rule. First there’s Jack, a commitment-phobic Australian hottie who can’t seem to stay away from Abbey; then there’s Nate, a sexy bassist who keeps forgetting he’s taken. Toying with nonexclusive relationships and exploring her sexuality, Abbey can’t help but feel excited about all the experience she’s gaining, but has she really, truly found herself? Kennedy’s novel is a page-turner—who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and meet interested potential lovers down the hall? Abbey is a relatable character who yearns to stand outside her father’s shadow, and though the love triangle is a focal point, it never outshines the heroine’s growth.

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781728299792

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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