A memorable, beautifully written story of love and loss.

THE DISTANCE

South African novelist Vladislavić delivers a moving, closely observed study in family dynamics in a time of apartheid.

Like the author, Joe and Branko Blahavić are the descendants of a Croatian migrant who landed in South Africa and stayed, of which their father remarks, “He knew people in Pretoria. That’s what immigrants do. They find some connection to help them out until they’re on their feet.” Joe would rather be by the sea than in the waterless Transvaal, but, around the time of the Fight of the Century—the 1971 smackdown between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier—he contents himself with keeping elaborate scrapbooks devoted to The Champ: “In the buildup to the fight I started to collect cuttings,” says Joe, “and for the next five years I kept everything about Ali that I could lay my hands on, trimming hundreds of articles out of the broadsheets and pasting them into scrapbooks.” Joe and Branko’s childhood closeness widens in adolescence and adulthood, but the distance of which Vladislavić writes comes in many forms: that of the immigrants from an apartheid society, that of families as the children grow up and move away, in Joe’s case to America, where he becomes a writer. Joe returns to South Africa but suffers a bad end, leaving it to Branko to reconstruct his brother’s life through those scrapbooks and complete the book Joe has been contracted to write about them. “Scenes from our childhood flicker to life and I write them down as they come. That’s something he taught me: thinking about writing is not the same as actually doing it,” Branko says, later texting Joe’s editor, “Btw the book is not actually about Ali.” Indeed it’s not, though the boisterous Ali is a leitmotif. It helps to know a little South African patois (“Going to the rofstoei on a Saturday night is a big thing for two teenage boys, especially when we don’t have to take care of the lighties”), but allowing for a few linguistic puzzles, Vladislavić’s tale unfolds with grace and precision.

A memorable, beautifully written story of love and loss.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939810-76-2

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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

IT STARTS WITH US

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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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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