A novel that forges its own memorable path despite some overly elaborate backstory.


Debut author Whelan presents a novel about a disciplined wanderer and the many lives that he touches.

It’s 1974 in Canterbury, Massachusetts, and Virgil Peterson is working in the local library. One day, he’s startled by a man in an elaborate leather cape—a local personality known as “the Leatherman,” who, Virgil thinks, looks like “some outlandish composite of 18th-century swashbuckling pirate, American Indian sachem and medieval hermit.” He soon finds that the offbeat Leatherman has a strange effect on him. The man is no ordinary vagabond: He walks in a geographic circle, every 28 days, that takes him through precisely the same towns; the route takes him from Boston to Brockton to Lowell to Somerville. The Leatherman also tells Virgil that he wants to learn about every celestial object in the night sky. He wants to do so for a very specific reason: to impress a woman known as “Honeybee.” In 1943 in Jackson, Mississippi, Honeybee lost her young child after an incident that still causes her great guilt. Now, in 1974, she attempts to contact her sister in Massachusetts, with whom she has a strained relationship. The book darts back and forth between the past and present lives of Virgil, the Leatherman, and Honeybee. All three have suffered a great deal in their respective backstories, and all have doubts about their futures. The Leatherman’s history receives the most attention in the text, delving into his time in France in the 1930s and his love of a married Frenchwoman named Béatrice. He is, after all, “The Man Who Walks In A Circle,” and it becomes clear that he didn’t embark on such a strange existence just for fun. The allusions to the work of poet Dante are many; at the outset, for instance, there’s a reference to a famous quote about abandoning all hope. Readers will enjoy finding out how much of Dante’s work made it into this strange story, and they’ll also be interested in just how strange the story becomes, as drug use, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a group of other homeless people play parts. The Leatherman also imparts unusual but notably succinct observations along the way. He notes, for instance, how he’s been around long enough to have seen the disappearance of the fedora in men’s fashion as well as “the fleets of Technicolor pleasure boats of the Fifties and Sixties.” Still, he remains a grounded character who’s able to carry much of the story. That said, some developments strain credulity, including events in Leatherman’s detailed past in Europe as a jewel thief and cinephile. Also, readers won’t be surprised that his days as a criminal in the ’30s didn’t turn out well given his current circumstances as a wanderer 40 years hence. Nevertheless, readers will find themselves engaged as the fates of Virgil, the Leatherman, and Honeybee become inexorably intertwined. Taken individually, these players are merely frustrated individuals with sad pasts, but together, they create their own unique adventure.

A novel that forges its own memorable path despite some overly elaborate backstory.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 326

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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


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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