Wistful tales rendered with delicate writing and powerful perception.

PREPARE HER

STORIES

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 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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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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REMINDERS OF HIM

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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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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