Clever, likable, and yet unsatisfying, this tale too often bears out the narrator’s early claim: “I take in everything, even...

NUTSHELL

Speaking from the womb of his 28-year-old mother, this slim entertainment’s precocious narrator tells of sex and booze and something rotten in London.

The story covers a few days as pregnant Trudy and her lover, Claude, bumble through a plan to use a poisoned smoothie to kill John, who is her estranged husband, Claude’s brother, and the fetus’s father. The motives are, as always, love and money: the Trudy-Claude affair is fueled by the prospect of selling John’s valuable London town house. The lovers paint John as a failed and boring poet, while a protégé’s post-mortem testimony indicates otherwise. Blame the little guy inside, an inevitably unreliable narrator at nine months’ gestation. Of course, the contrivance of a fetus as docent is a tricky one even with a writer as resourceful as McEwan (The Children Act, 2014, etc.). It cries out for awkward, pace-killing explanations: how can the unborn know Ex, Why, and Zed? McEwan works to suspend disbelief by giving his narrator versions of the five senses and an intellect that ranges far beyond his human cell thanks to his mother’s affection for talk radio, “podcast lectures and self-improving audio books.” He also has a persuasive, down-to-earth voice, which somehow makes more palatable his many insights and observations that add flesh to a meager story. A bit more flesh (perhaps a pound) comes with McEwan’s suggestion of a 21st-century prequel to Hamlet, quickly signaled in the names of the chief characters, (Ger)Trudy and Claude(ius), their kinships and murder plot, and many another allusion pointing to Elsinore of yore. Catching those allusions can be a fun sort of parlor game, but what they add up to, if anything, is unclear.

Clever, likable, and yet unsatisfying, this tale too often bears out the narrator’s early claim: “I take in everything, even the trivia—of which there is much.”

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-54207-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Did you like this book?

more