An intricate and captivating dual narrative that keeps returning to the magic of trees.

LINEAGE OF THE TREES

A tragedy-scarred woman dedicates her life to guarding trees.

Brunette’s novel opens with an emblematically vivid and horrifying image. The book’s main character, Lata Marie, recalls the day before her eighth birthday, when Aunt Charlotte set fire to her house—“a rambling Victorian with a turret and a wrap-around porch”—and was consumed in the flames. “The last time I saw her,” Lata reflects, “she stood in the attic window waving at me, a solid wall of fire behind her like a stage curtain.” From that stark initial image, the narrative flows backward to flesh out the oddly controlling nature of Lata’s Uncle Jesse and its effect on the unconventional Charlotte, who “had a translucent quality—an ability to walk through a room full of people as though she were the only one there.” It was the extensive amount of time she spent with Charlotte as a child that gave Lata her own sympathy for nature and “taste for wildness.” The story expands to include Charlotte’s own background; the tale of her introduction to the neighborhood woods, protected by the Convent of the Sisters of St. Francis; and the semimystical lessons she absorbed from nature. “The woods taught me things you can’t learn from people,” Charlotte muses, “like how to make friends with trees and the little plants that grow beneath them.” Looming in the background of all these deep stories are the fate of the woods and the fiery culmination awaiting Charlotte.

Brunette handles the many strands of her novel with considerable, delicate skill. The decision to shuttle the plots between chapters focusing on Lata and those concentrating on Charlotte could easily have backfired since it necessarily stands in the way of a central momentum forming. But the author makes this split narrative work, increasing the undercurrents of tension between the two stories across diverse time periods and personalities. Somewhat unexpectedly, the character of Jesse, with his odd obsessions—reflected in a different way from these two narrative perspectives—often takes primacy. The book unifies the various threads through a sense of connection to the natural world and a feeling of resentment at its destruction. “Did anyone make their prayers to the forest, make their case for the good this city would do by rising up in its place?” asks a character looking at the rapid urban expansion. “Did anyone talk to the people who had lived there first, convince them of the pressing need for the giant dry cleaner and the drug store and the factory that made foam rubber?” Brunette gracefully and subtly moves her parallel stories forward, and although Charlotte’s tale is noticeably more intriguing than Lata’s, both are adroitly shaped in order to evoke and echo each other. And the suggestion running through both accounts—the unambiguous sanctity of the natural world—lends the two storylines an urgent kind of real-world spirituality.

An intricate and captivating dual narrative that keeps returning to the magic of trees.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9892605-5-8

Page Count: 234

Publisher: flamingseed press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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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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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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