A beautiful, well-balanced collection.

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SCOUTING FOR THE REAPER

STORIES

In this collection of literary fiction, winner of the 2012 Hudson Prize, seven short stories explore secrets, lies and trust.

Appel (Phoning Home: Essays, 2014, etc.) populates his stories with mostly ordinary people. But his characters, whether a truck driver or a professional folklorist, teenage or elderly, male or female, all tend to come up against a longing for trustworthiness. The title story begins with the knockout line: “Nothing sells tombstones like a Girl Scout in uniform”—a mild piece of deception (Natalie, the narrator, is 13 and was never a Girl Scout) that hints at more complicated ones to follow. Over several visits, Natalie’s father flirts with an old love, Delia Braithwaite, who’s dying, while ostensibly selling her a headstone. When she finally says, “I trust you, Gordon,” he trembles, as if suppressing a scream: “My father’s tone shifted slowly from intimate to false intimate—the voice he used to clinch the bargain with his other customers.” In these stories, trust can create distance as well as closeness, as can the truth. In “Choose Your Own Genetics,” a lesson on blood typing discloses some unsettling news; even more unsettling is how the narrator’s respected father, a geneticist, uses his superior knowledge to bully the teacher. Greta, the lonely, widowed central character in “Ad Valorem,” decides to ignore what she knows to be true since she longs to trust. Part of trusting yourself is knowing your limits, or as the truck-driver narrator of “Hazardous Cargoes” puts it: “You’ve got to know your load. And you’ve got to know how far to carry it.” Appel approaches his characters with compassion and an understanding of human frailty. In “The Extinction of Fairy Tales,” another lonely character realizes when her lawn-care man stops showing up that she doesn’t even know his last name, and she owes him a debt of gratitude: “She wanted to tell people that he was the man who’d buried her dog, but that sounded absolutely nutty out-of-context. There was the problem with human relationships—you could never really explain them.” Luckily for readers, Appel can.

A beautiful, well-balanced collection.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-937854-95-9

Page Count: 187

Publisher: Black Lawrence Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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

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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

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