A beautifully observed book, written in precise, elegant prose that contains a wealth of deep feeling.

COLD ENOUGH FOR SNOW

In Australian author Au's deceptively simple second novel, a mother and daughter meet in Japan to spend time traveling together.

On a rainy October day in Tokyo, a woman gently shepherds her undemanding mother toward a museum. Their trip unfolds, interspersed with memories from the narrator's life, past conversations, and musings about her mother, who grew up in Hong Kong and immigrated to another country before her children were born. The two are kind with each other, almost formal, but not close. A muted sense of frustrated hope hangs over their interactions, a thorny knot of longing and despair. Toward the end, in a rare moment of intimacy inside a church they are visiting as tourists, the daughter asks about her mother's beliefs: "She said that she believed that we were all essentially nothing, just series of sensations and desires, none of it lasting...there was no control, and understanding would not lessen any pain. The best we could do in this life was to pass through it, like smoke through the branches, suffering, until we either reached a state of nothingness, or else suffered elsewhere." To this the daughter makes no reply. "I looked at my watch and said that visiting hours were almost over, and that we should probably go." The trip does not succeed the way the narrator hoped. And yet: "It occurred to me that by the age I was now, my mother had already made a new life for herself in a new country...I tried, and failed, to imagine her first months there. Had she been homesick? Had she been awed by the streets, the brick and weatherboard houses, so different to her own home? Had she been worn out not by the big changes, but, as is often the case, by countless smaller ones—the supermarkets that were so well stocked, but where you could not buy glass noodles, or the right kind of rice?" Early on, in a phone conversation, the narrator's sister says that her young daughter wants to wear the same dress every day. All the sister can do is "to make her something warm for dinner, to look on her in flawed understanding, and console in all the insufficient ways." Flawed understanding, consolation, and insufficiency all infuse this compelling, unsettling novel reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts or Rachel Cusk's Outline Trilogy.

A beautifully observed book, written in precise, elegant prose that contains a wealth of deep feeling.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8112-3155-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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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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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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