This honest, mature look at life and love adds to a growing body of evidence leading to a decisive verdict: Ciment is an...

THE BODY IN QUESTION

Two sequestered jurors on a tabloidworthy Florida murder trial tumble into an impassioned, illicit affair in this engaging, empathetic novel.

In a jury holding room, waiting to be called into the courtroom for a voir dire, two prospective jurors, identified for most of the book only as C-2 and F-17, begin a flirtation that rapidly grows into a full-blown love affair. C-2 is a 52-year-old female photographer of some renown. Having shot portraits for magazines like Rolling Stone and Interview early in her career, she eventually concluded she was interested in people not as individuals but as a species, and she turned her lens to other subjects, such as war and animals. C-2 is married to a much older man, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who is now 85. Their once-ardent relationship has evolved, and she is increasingly aware of the toll time is taking on their lives and bodies. Now, intensely attracted to F-17, a professor of anatomy in his early 40s with a pitted complexion, piercing blue eyes, and “beautiful feet,” C-2 finds herself hoping for “one last dalliance before she gets too old.” As the affair plays out against a backdrop of a gruesome, sad, and unsettling murder trial (a teenage girl stands accused of killing her toddler brother, but is the real culprit her twin sister?) and the shabby Econo Lodge accommodations and unappetizing luncheonette meals the court has arranged for the jurors during their sequestration, C-2, as both a lover and a juror, must weigh issues of guilt and innocence, loyalty and betrayal, life and death, passion and compassion. Ciment (Act of God, 2015, etc.) lays out the plot—part love story, part whodunit, part coming-of-old-age tale—with gentle sensitivity and straightforward intelligence, approaching complex emotions and conflicting loyalties as might a good juror: observing her characters’ behavior with an open mind and heart, an ability to consider context and varied perspectives, an appreciation for the evidence, and a notable lack of judgment.

This honest, mature look at life and love adds to a growing body of evidence leading to a decisive verdict: Ciment is an author well worth reading.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4798-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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