Despite some dips into melodrama, a smart consideration of what it means to acquire a family.

PERFECT LIFE

Shattuck returns to the moneyed Massachusetts territory explored in The Hazards of Good Breeding (2003).

They became friends at Harvard, and now, 15 years later, three of them still reside near it. Jenny, a hotshot marketing executive at Genron Pharmaceuticals, is building a McMansion in Wellesley. Laura does the stay-at-home mom thing with her two daughters—she hardly ever sees mogul husband Mac—in Cambridge. That’s also where Elise, a scientist at a lab owned by Genron, lives with her partner Chrissy and their twin sons. Only Neil has wandered away to lead a mysterious, cynical existence in Los Angeles, and when he wanders back to Boston, he is not particularly welcome. Two years ago Jenny approached Neil to be a sperm donor. Her husband Jeremy was infertile, she explained; smart, creative, handsome and healthy Neil seemed like good donor material, and his disinterest in children suited the arrangement Jenny wanted. No one but Laura, Elise and Jeremy would know that Neil was the biological father; he would have no role in the child’s life. But then Neil shows up at the baby’s christening with some vague notion of being acknowledged, and his presence throws everyone’s comfortable habits into question. Shattuck’s best creation is Neil. The gifted 22-year-old with all the right questions, the critical eye, the disdain for conformity, is uncomfortably just the same at 35, when all that brilliance smacks of naive narcissism. Working in Boston for a year developing a video game, he begins his passive-aggressive assault by sleeping with Laura and stalking Jenny’s year-old baby Colin. Paternity and belonging are the novel’s leitmotifs: As Jenny, Jeremy and Neil grapple with the question of what constitutes fatherhood, Elise’s relationship falters over Chrissy’s insistence that their sons meet all the other children produced by inseminations from their sperm donor, whom she calls the boys’ “brothers and sisters.”

Despite some dips into melodrama, a smart consideration of what it means to acquire a family.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06950-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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