A thoughtful tale of loyalty and friendship, family dynamics and human nature, and the cancer of buried truths.

THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP

In a small-town cul-de-sac in rural England, preteen Grace and her friend Tilly set out to find God. What they unknowingly uncover is an ugly neighborhood secret.

Cannon’s debut novel opens with the disappearance of the avenue’s friendliest resident, Mrs. Creasey. Puzzled and worried, Grace approaches the church vicar, who responds with cliché—God knows everyone’s whereabouts. As Grace and Tilly search, Cannon’s story is driven by the two girls intruding into an adult world, sometimes tentatively, sometimes brazenly. The novel is primarily set in the scorching summer of 1976, with flashbacks to events in 1967. The two threads merge to create an ominous, near-threatening aura, an oblique narrative haunted by things unsaid and shadowed references. Precocious Grace and fragile Tilly are well-nuanced protagonists, with a majority of chapters told from Grace’s point of view. Cannon gives Grace a perceptive, insightful personality, as when she walks through a cemetery feeling "all the bones that were buried there had made wisdom grow in the soil" or when she and Tilly approach a schoolyard "where we dissolved into a spill of other children." Although dominated by Grace, Tilly is strong enough to be kinder and more empathetic. Adults scurry through the story, with blowsy Sheila Dakin forever sunning herself on her front lawn or the young widower Eric Lamb constantly nipping at a perfect garden or Walter Bishop resting uneasily at the heart of the secret. Ripe with symbolism and metaphor—hypocrisy and rationalization reign when Tilly discovers Drainpipe Jesus, an apparition—Cannon’s sometimes-amorphous novel is a subjective sociological study with the air of a cozy mystery.

A thoughtful tale of loyalty and friendship, family dynamics and human nature, and the cancer of buried truths.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2189-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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THE PRINCE OF TIDES

A NOVEL

A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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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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