Mystical, gripping, rooted in the land—Brown may bang a little too hard on the keys, but he plays a compelling tune.


A novel of place, myth, and clashing loyalties set in 1980s Penobscot, Maine.

Shortly after a team of Japanese investors visits a local paper mill with an eye toward reopening it, a 14-year-old member of the Penobscot Nation burns the building to the ground and disappears. The act sows discord through the economically challenged region. Enraged by the loss of prospective jobs, some demand swift vengeance for the perpetrator. Others, like the narrator’s mother, Falon Ames, who runs a local newspaper, argue that the event must be seen in its larger context; the mill, after all, had hardly been “an innocent victim”; its former owners had “knowingly discharged toxic chemicals and wastewater products…into the river, poisoning its fish and plants.” This dichotomy—between a mystical appreciation for the natural world and the environmentally extractive nature of work and industry—pervades Brown’s beautiful if uneven debut. While the arsonist and her father struggle to survive off the land as fugitives, Penobscot Bay lobsterman Lyman Creel inaugurates a parallel land-industry drama: Convinced that un-fished waters are wasted waters, Lyman lays his traps in the mouth of the Penobscot River, an act of overreach (the river rights belong to the Penobscot Nation) that helps motivate the narrator and his twin brother to begin sabotaging Lyman’s traps. Like many debuts, Brown’s first novel is imperfect. His dialogue sometimes veers toward preciousness at the expense of character development; his characters are often too accurately aware of the wider themes that shape their lives (“Some places are like portals to eternity,” says the narrator’s uncle. “You stand in them and look around, and you feel how long and unending the world is. You become a part of something beyond time. Maybe this is one of those places”); and the plot moves through increasingly convenient contortions as it hurtles toward its foreseeable crescendo. Yet despite these shortcomings, Brown tells a gripping tale. And in his hands the Penobscot region of the 1980s and '90s—with its eccentric cast of Vietnam veterans, hippy fugitives, gruff lobstermen, and Penobscot tribal members—comes wonderfully to life.

Mystical, gripping, rooted in the land—Brown may bang a little too hard on the keys, but he plays a compelling tune.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06299-413-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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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.


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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