Next book

ANONYMOUS SEX

Stories that range from charming to simply macabre, from beautifully crafted to barely formed.

A diverse array of authors explore the heights, depths, and mediocre middle of human sexuality.

The first thing to know about this anthology is that it has a hook: The editors list the names of the 27 contributors in alphabetical order, but these names are not attached to the stories. The idea is that anonymity frees the authors and creates a fun mystery for the reader—although one wonders how many readers outside the worlds of writing and publishing will spend time puzzling over which entry is by Robert Olen Butler and which is by Helen Oyeyemi. The second thing to know about this anthology is that it is not a collection of “erotica.” It is true that each story presented here deals with sex in some way. It’s also true that there may well be readers who find “Woman Eaten by Shark Drawn to Her Gold Byzantine Ring”—a story that delivers precisely what the title suggests—stimulating. But, aside from a handful of stories—such as “Find Me” and “Vis Á Vis 1953”—these are not narratives in which explicit sex is the centerpiece or arousing the reader is the point. “LVIII Times a Year,” a glimpse inside the marriage of two deeply unpleasant people, seems to have been constructed to shrivel desire. “Now he thought of the woman’s gold tooth and ejaculated into the bowl” is the climax (sorry) of a set of scenarios called “Altitude Sickness.” In addition to the aforementioned image of joyless masturbation in an airplane toilet, these vignettes also include a man who can only get an erection aboard the Concorde and the first moments of what appears to be a plane crash. Set in a corporate-owned afterlife, “Asphodel” is a dose of existential horror that ends with an explosion of sexuality that may meet the Lacanian definition of jouissance but is not, in any kind of usual way, hot. There are some lovely stories here. The main character in “One Day in the Life of Josephine Bellanotte Munro” is a middle-aged woman who wants and who knows herself to be wanted. In “This Kind,” clandestine encounters with a baker allow a woman to escape the demands of home, but when he starts needing her emotionally as well as physically, she rediscovers the beauty of what she has with her wife.

Stories that range from charming to simply macabre, from beautifully crafted to barely formed.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982177-51-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 174


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

THE WOMEN

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 174


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 16


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 16


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

Close Quickview