Tilley handles decadeslong character arcs with empathy, resulting in a resonant and humanistic novel.

AGAINST THE WIND

Tilley’s debut novel after several collections of poetry traces the connections between a disparate group of people in the United States and Canada.

It begins with Ralph, a well-off lawyer in New York City, having a health episode that prompts him to revisit a canoe trip he undertook in 1965 with several of his high school friends. Ralph’s high school girlfriend, Lynn, is a teacher; his old rival, Dieter, now works for a company with a contentious wind farm project in the works. Jean-Pierre, Lynn’s estranged husband, also has ties to the wind farm and often ponders his younger days, when he was deeply involved in Quebecois separatist politics. Many of the characters are in late middle age, with decades of personal history and professional rivalries behind them. The main exception, generationally speaking, is Jules, the grandson of Lynn and Jean-Pierre, raised by them after the boy's parents died in a plane crash. Jules is a high school senior with an interest in engineering, which connects him to many of Lynn’s old friends. Jules is also transgender, which leads to a few awkward moments between him and Jean-Pierre, who is portrayed as being less understanding of Jules’ gender than Lynn. Tilley’s novel charts the shifting balance of power, both emotional and financial, within this group. Tilley handles most of his characters with sympathy, though an early revelation about Dieter helps to establish him as the closest thing this novel has to an antagonist. It’s a slow-burning work but written with a solid attention to detail—even if its focus on quiet conflicts and interpersonal dynamics can feel too restrained at times.

Tilley handles decadeslong character arcs with empathy, resulting in a resonant and humanistic novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59709-835-9

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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