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NOBBY'S DIARY

A rollicking adventure that sends up and pays homage.

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In this short novel set in 1980s London, a boy becomes involved with an underground newspaper operation run by a group of homeless people.

Walker’s tale begins with an unusual premise. It’s 1985, and the city’s major newspapers are relocating their presses from Fleet Street to locations outside the city limits; the cost-cutting measure has dire consequences for the area’s homeless people, who rely on the warmth from the presses in winter. Speaking fondly of the warm air piped up to street level, the titular Nobby, an elder of the community, says, “It’s like having our own central heating system, only it’s outside. Lovely! Snug as a bug in a rug, even on the coldest nights.” However, Spencer Sweetnum, the 10-year-old son of a newspaperman, is the novel’s central character.When he discovers Nobby living in his parents’ shed, the two strike up an immediate friendship, and the elder man lets him in on a grand secret: the forsaken people of the city have come together to create their own paper to get heat flowing through the grates again. They’ve been stealing hardware from other papers’ presses and reassembling it in an abandoned tube station. To help his new comrades, Spencer must sneak around his father, who works in the circulation department at The Scribe. Meanwhile, the shadowy media baron who runs that newspaper, known only as the Proprietor, makes ready to crush his unlikely opposition. In one of several villainous speeches, he exclaims, “We seem to have been victimized by—indeed, have been outsmarted by—no less than four bums and a boy!”

Walker builds a colorful cast of characters in this novel. Like many child protagonists, Spencer doesn’t offer much beyond a sunny, energetic disposition, but Nobby and his friends’ characterizations more than make up for it. There’s Caractacus, who has an eye patch with “an eye crudely drawn on it,” and the enigmatic Kipper, who strikes quite a figure—although the author pays closer attention to his odor, which brings to mind “a touch of something recently deceased.” Mavis, the newspaper’s fashion editor, stylishly dresses in clipped-together plastic bags. And there’s the charismatic Nobby, a talkative old schemer with a big heart. Walker brings this crew to life as well as their unlikely iconoclastic newspaper, The Daily Bread, ostensibly founded just to keep them all warm. However, implausibilities abound: Kipper, for instance, happens to be an engineering genius who’s able to reassemble an entire press from purloined parts, and Spencer’s parents conveniently forget about him for long periods of time as he hangs out underground. But this is a heightened world of slapstick antics, and a few gaps of logic don’t stop the author from having fun, which makes for an enjoyable read. In one memorable scene, for example, a group is cornered by heavies working for the Proprietor. Kipper, like a malodorous superhero, flaps his lapels to waft a “greenish fog” at their pursuers.

A rollicking adventure that sends up and pays homage.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69229-516-5

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WOMEN

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

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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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