FLICKING BOOGERS IN THE WIND

Unseemly juvenile antics and unhinged philosophical yakking abound in this boisterous magical-realist novel.
Willy Nilly, a 10-year-old boy living on the outskirts of Bumpkinville, Montana, is a neurotic motor mouth with a grandiose imagination and a penchant for collecting “lucky” pennies—a habit perhaps related to the fact that a very unlucky lightning bolt felled his father. He’s full of cosmic ambition: He wants to be cryogenically frozen and then revived when medical science has cured old age so he can travel the universe in a spaceship. But his more concrete plans tend to misfire, such as a lemonade stand that’s immediately shut down for want of a permit. Better luck comes when he meets Daffodil Peacock, a new girl in class who lives in a palace and collects her own raspberry-flavored tears. They bond over a turtle named Bruce Lee that’s able to telepathically converse with Willy. Daffodil, Bruce and Willy become fast friends, practicing karate together, engaging in debates about “the merits of structuralism versus existentialism,” and mulling “an Aristotelian proof of the proposition that modern cooking shows are eerily similar to ancient forms of alchemical practice.” None of this goes anywhere in particular; instead, Daffodil heads offstage to experience thrilling adventures that readers don’t hear much about while Willy continues to conceive unlikely projects that predictably fizzle. Bricklin has a fertile, teeming comic imagination. However, there’s not much narrative payoff to it: The novel is mainly an excuse for regaling readers with twee notions, overextended japes and drolly precocious dialogue from the mouths of babes. The latter is sophomoric but in no way childlike, unless one knows any 10-year-olds who ask for James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake as a bedtime story. The prose seems overly pleased with its own showy erudition (“I felt like a Roman soldier being ambushed by the Germanic war chief Arminius at the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest”) and sometimes mistakes verbosity (“But is my brain me or am I my brain or am I not my brain or is it the same?”) for profundity. The result often feels as pointless as the title might suggest.

A frenetic but feckless fantasia.

Pub Date: July 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500519858

Page Count: 134

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

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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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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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