Always arresting, never sentimental; gut-wrenching, though not without hope.

WHAT WE OWE

Told she has six months to live, an Iranian refugee living in Sweden rages against her inevitable decline—and wrestles with the choices of her past—in Hashemzadeh Bonde’s spare and devastating novel, her first to be published in the U.S.

At 50, Nahid is unceremoniously diagnosed with terminal cancer. She knows death: A former Marxist revolutionary who fled Iran for Sweden, she has seen it. Now that it is upon her, she ought to be prepared. “I’ve always carried my death with me,” she announces. “Our time was always borrowed. We weren’t supposed to be alive. We should have died in the revolution.” But the reality of the diagnosis terrifies her. “What do you do when they tell you you’re dying?” she wonders, caustically. What follows is less a plot than a reckoning: As her health declines, she recalls her childhood in Iran, the early excitement of the revolution followed by the brutality of the violence. She reflects back on her marriage and her early years in Sweden, poisoned by the pain she and her husband shared. And in the present, she considers her daughter, Aram, raised in so-called freedom, now an adult with a doting Swedish boyfriend. She loves Aram more than anyone, but her anger makes her cruel. “You have no mother,” she tells Aram, shortly after diagnosis. “You have nobody. You’re an orphan.” Nahid is capable of betrayal; she learned that during the revolution. Now that she is dying, she debates the value of her choices: “I wonder now what’s worth more,” she says. “Freedom and democracy. Or people who love you. People who will take care of your children when you die.” Translated—gorgeously and simply—by Wessel, Nahid's sentences are short and thrillingly brutal, and the result is exhilarating. Hashemzadeh Bonde, unafraid of ugliness and seemingly unconcerned with likability, has produced a startling meditation on death, national identity, and motherhood.

Always arresting, never sentimental; gut-wrenching, though not without hope.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-99508-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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