Painful and joyous, sad and funny—impossible to put down.

THE ARSONISTS' CITY

Alyan’s riveting novel, set in America and the Middle East, brims with overlapping memories of secrets, betrayals, and loyalties within a seemingly assimilated Syrian Lebanese American family.

In 1978, young Palestinian Zakaria is assassinated in a refugee camp in Beirut, the victim of a factional revenge killing during Lebanon’s civil war. Weeks before, Zakaria had betrayed his best friend, Lebanese Idris, with Idris’ Syrian girlfriend, Mazna. Spelled out in the first pages, these facts will haunt the novel as their impact on members of the Nasr family comes to light. Cut to present-day California, where cardiac surgeon Idris Nasr lives with Mazna, whom he married not long after Zakaria’s death. Their three grown children, born and raised in America, take their parents’ perpetually rocky 40-year marriage for granted. And as they first avoid, then succumb to Mazna’s entreaties to convene in Beirut—supposedly to hold a memorial service for Idris’ recently deceased father but really to protest against Idris’ selling the ancestral home he's just inherited—all three are hiding problems from their parents. In Brooklyn, almost 40-year-old microbiologist Ava suspects her WASP husband is having an affair; in Austin, Mimi, 32, has cheated on his long-suffering girlfriend and been dumped by the band he started; almost 30-year-old Naj, an internationally famous singer/musician, has yet to tell her parents she’s gay. Meanwhile, Mazna, whose passions for Zakaria and her aborted career as an actress have never died, has spent her marriage betraying and being betrayed by Idris, depending upon yet resenting him. And Idris, a man of privileged self-importance and some charm, is perhaps more self-aware than his family realizes. Palestinian American psychologist and writer Alyan is masterful at clarifying the complicated sociopolitical realities surrounding Lebanon's and Syria’s intertwined histories in terms of class, caste, colonialism, and tribalism. But even more masterful here—as in Salt Houses(2017), which portrayed the Palestinian diaspora through four generations of a single family—is her laserlike focus on her multifaceted characters in big and small moments that come together to create a singular family.

Painful and joyous, sad and funny—impossible to put down.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-12655-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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