Addictive, elegiac, and pristinely paced.


A diary-keeping museum curator builds a relic of words for his dead lover.

Having spent a solitary New Year’s Eve alone watching a film in which his former lover Imogen starred, David—a middle-aged man who’s “happier living in the past”—begins a diary into which he pours a lyrical disorder of fragments: He describes Imogen’s often risqué, avant-garde films; he meditates on the Catholic veneration of saints and relics; he describes the financially ailing Sanderson-Perceval Museum, where the items on display—“the velvet mushrooms, the glass jellyfish,” the “excavated” remains of a stillborn child—“belonged together only because they had been collected”; he writes about Imogen’s long decline through illness to death; he charts the progress of a homeless man working to put his life back on track; and, collected alongside one another in David’s diary, these disparate writings slowly refract back to Imogen, adhering into something of a reliquary of words. Novels made of nonlinear fragments—see Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation, Peter Rock’s The Night Swimmers, or David Markson’s Wittgenstein's Mistress—tend to self-consciously declare their form as their philosophy; Buckley’s (The River Is the River, 2015, etc.) latest novel is no exception. Through David, Buckley meditates on the unbridgeable gap between thoughts and expressions: “Words do not preserve the person; they are not held in a colorless medium of language.” Later the topic is the unbridgeable gap between memory and life: “When I think of Imogen, what presents itself to my mind is not a story….A story, a life, is something one makes; it is not what one remembers.” Readers who dislike artsy books told in nonlinear fragments will undoubtedly dislike this one; but for the rest of us, David’s diary is actually something of a triumph. It contains moments of astonishing lyricism: A museum’s objects “are like stars, small pieces of light from distances that cannot be bridged.” It contains moments of dark humor: Imogen (an actress, remember) “did not feel that she was an insecure person. On the contrary, she said, she was absolutely secure in the knowledge that there was no secure entity behind the name Imogen Gough.” And, ultimately, Buckley’s novel is both very entertaining and very sad—a book of high artifice that feels true.

Addictive, elegiac, and pristinely paced.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68137-395-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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