SHOES ON THE STAIRS

While some of the humor falls flat, this modern ghost story remains touching.

A supernatural novel focuses on a mother’s care from beyond the grave.

Steele presents Claire Blackwell, a homemaker in San Diego, California. Claire’s daily frustrations include getting the kids to school on time and managing all of the little, often unnoticed things that keep a household running. This all changes one rainy day when Claire is killed in a car accident. The event is, however, not the end of Claire. She finds herself as a ghost of sorts, able to observe things on the earthly plane, though not able to interfere with them. She can ride in someone’s car and hear everything said, but she can’t transport herself to places instantly or touch anything. But in time, Claire learns she can communicate with her husband and children. And if they relied on Claire when she was alive, they need her more now that she’s dead. But even a ghost mother can only do so much. Then there is the question of Claire’s future: Will she ever move on from her newfound existence? Will she be able to save her family before she leaves? The book takes a unique twist on a life-after-death existence. But certain comical moments can be trite. For instance, Brad, Claire’s husband, attempts to cook a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving. Add in a surprise visit from relatives, and it seems as if following the death of his wife, Brad is destined to spend his own eternity as a bumbling father in a sitcom. Nevertheless, many moments are moving even with the fantastical premise. Claire’s abilities allow her to see the other sides of her children’s lives. She comes to understand them in a way that she never would have otherwise. Although she may not be able to magically return to life, she will make readers reconsider what it means to be among the living.

While some of the humor falls flat, this modern ghost story remains touching.

Pub Date: July 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947392-56-4

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2020

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THE WOMEN

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

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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