HOW THE PENGUINS SAVED VERONICA

A light but enjoyable, optimistic tale.

A grumpy, emotionally isolated octogenarian living in Scotland travels to Antarctica and rediscovers herself.

The years and decades have quietly slipped by Veronica McCreedy as she has lived alone along the Ayrshire coast with her various staff tending to her, her home, and its grounds. But midway through her 80s, she rediscovers her teenage diaries and realizes that she doesn’t recognize the isolated person she has become. Though her short-term memory might not be what it once was, the memories of her teenage years come flooding back, and she decides she must find out if she has any living relatives and reclaim the adventurousness that once defined her. When the initial meeting with her 27-year-old grandson, Patrick, is a flop, she decides she’ll leave her millions to the Antarctic penguins she’s been watching on a television series. And, in a choice that readers might view incredulously, she buys all the necessary equipment, clothing, and tickets, announces her planned arrival time at the Locket Island research facility, and sets off. Prior, author of Ellie and the Harpmaker (2019), has written a story about the importance of family and love and how memories might remain long buried but, once they surface, can be just as distressing or joy-inducing as when they first occurred. The narrative, partially told by Veronica, partially by Patrick, and partially via emails, blog posts, and diary entries, explores the complicated emotions that guide people’s decisions, in both good and bad ways. Drug use, addiction, and depression are touched on, but Prior ensures that readers understand the underlying goodness of her characters and their ability to survive despite loss. While some might view the story’s proselytizing about climate change and the redemptive love of animals onerous, others will agree wholeheartedly.

A light but enjoyable, optimistic tale.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0381-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

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

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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 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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