A sometimes-engrossing but often self-indulgent tale about polyamory gone awry.


An author disappears in this psychological novel set in contemporary China.

Isham is missing. After publishing naked pictures of his girlfriend/translator on the internet and then beating her up in a Shanghai cafe, the writer has dropped out of view. That’s the story according to Marguerite, the mostly deaf Afghan American rug weaver with a glass bathtub and a prominent mustache. Marguerite attempts to reassemble the tale, for herself and a coterie of admirers. Years ago, author and English teacher Isham began a relationship with Luna, a Chinese woman fluent in English, who also happened to have a mustache. But sex was too painful for Luna for them to consummate the act, which led the pair to a dysfunctional, obsessive, on-again, off-again relationship. All the while, Isham was living with his main girlfriend, Bonnie. When Kitty, a third woman—who also had a mustache—entered the mix, the situation became truly volatile. Unable to share him, Luna and Kitty would eventually spiral into destructive behaviors that would end Isham’s life as he knew it. The erotic thriller has an ambitious, Faulkner-ian structure, at times alternating between the largely summarized adventures of the three lovers and Marguerite’s Scheherazade-like pausing the action to analyze them. The book investigates some intriguing territory, including polyamory and dating practices in China. But the protagonist is an unsalvageable misogynist and fetishist, and Cook’s prose replicates those tendencies. Luna is described as having “a primitively alluring face, a rudely attractive face, a compactly sexual face” while Isham and an American friend are portrayed thusly: “Both were atheists, down-to-earth in temperament, straight talkers, with a fondness for craft ales and voluptuous Asian bodies.” (In addition, the phrase benevolent rape appears at one point as a possible solution to Luna’s problem.) Cook’s past publications have flirted with these same transgressions, and it is possible that he is purposefully leaning into them here for the sake of making readers uncomfortable. But when all the exploitative material is stripped away, there simply isn’t much story left.

A sometimes-engrossing but often self-indulgent tale about polyamory gone awry.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73227-744-1

Page Count: 231

Publisher: Magic Theater Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2020

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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 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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