A brisk and engaging novel that wears itself thin on the grindstone of its own conceit.

CASE STUDY

A provocative send-up of midcentury British mores and the roots of modern psychotherapy.

Toward the end of 2019, GMB, a character with the author's initials, receives an email from one Martin Grey, who has in his possession several notebooks he believes GMB might find of interest. Mr. Grey asserts that the notebooks were written by his cousin about Collins Braithwaite, the notorious and now largely forgotten “enfant terrible of the so-called anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s,” on whom GMB has recently published a blog post. According to Grey, the notebooks contain evidence of near-criminal misconduct concerning Braithwaite’s involvement in the suicide of the diarist’s older sister, Veronica. GMB’s research assures him of the notebooks’ authenticity, if not their veracity, and he presents their contents verbatim, interspersed with sections of his own outline of Braithwaite’s salacious life and ignoble death. From the plinth of this metatextual introduction, the book dives into the “kooky élan” of a thoroughly middle-class young woman—the diarist—as she infiltrates Braithwaite’s office under the nom de guerre Rebecca Smyth. Rebecca is bent on uncovering the truth about Braithwaite’s therapeutic practice though she’s unsure what purpose this truth would serve. However, over the course of the five notebooks, Rebecca’s rapid descent into true depression coupled with her increasing difficulty in keeping her original identity separate from her assumed self become the driving narrative. As the novel progresses, the author’s layering of his fictional characters’ unverifiable testimony, frank deception, and self-aggrandizing half-truths with significant historical figures of the time—like R.D. Laing and Dirk Bogarde—and GMB's omnipresent frame narrative overlap to the extent that it's hard to tell not just whose perception to trust, but which among all these counterfeit identities is real. As beguiling as Rebecca’s wry domestic critique can be, the book’s star is clearly the carefully constructed unreliability Burnet imbues at every level of his writing. This results in a novel that strives toward the biggest of questions—in the absence of the Cartesian ego Braithwaite seeks to slay, is there anything at all underneath our masks?—but lacks the character-driven empathy that would encourage us to care about the answer.

A brisk and engaging novel that wears itself thin on the grindstone of its own conceit.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-77196-520-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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