A warmhearted exploration of modern love with considerable psychological and philosophical insights.

CLOSER TO FINE

In this coming-of-age novel set in 1995, a young woman starting graduate studies struggles with the vagaries of relationships, sexual orientation, and faith.

At the age of 23, Rachel Levine moves to Boston to begin a doctoral program in clinical psychology and to live with her 86-year-old grandfather, an observant Jew coping with the loss of his beloved wife. The two have a close bond, and Rachel serves as a needed companion but must keep parts of her life hidden. While she regularly accompanies Zayde (the Yiddish word for grandfather) to his synagogue, she is under strict instructions from her mother not to reveal to him her bisexual orientation. When she falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Liz Abraham, a brilliant young member of the congregation, she conceals it from him. The book examines the shifting plates of the religious community—more involvement of women and non-Jews in the rituals, to the consternation of Zayde. In her clinical training, under careful supervision, Rachel is learning how to enable her patients to handle change in their lives. Meanwhile, she becomes increasingly anxious about the uncertainties she faces. She is not confident about Liz’s commitment to her; her parents are uncomfortable with her bisexuality; and she fails to foresee some serious problems with a favorite patient. Her own experience with a skilled therapist grants her tremendous insights as she navigates some very rough waters. Rosenfeld’s novel is framed by events from 2019, indicating that Rachel has successfully achieved significant career and personal goals. Much time is spent on elaborate discussions of Jewish observance and beliefs, such as washing and sitting with a body between death and burial. The pacing flags at times for secular readers when these descriptions venture into the esoteric. The early romance of Rachel and Liz is a high point described with humor and zest. On an early date, Rachel explains to Liz that she doesn’t like spicy dishes but does love trying new foods, with the unspoken subtext: “I’m not into leather but don’t think that means I’m boring in bed.” The book’s descriptions of psychological disorders and treatments, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, are informative and extremely readable. Rachel’s therapist, Kevin Miller, summarizes the story’s message succinctly: “Rachel, the notion that we can have complete certainty about anything is a lie.”

A warmhearted exploration of modern love with considerable psychological and philosophical insights.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-059-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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