One of this indefatigable author’s best books in some time.



The latest of Oates’ numerous collections offers 14 tales variously concerned with family relationships and crises.

Nine characteristic stories open the volume on a strong note. A married couple driving on the freeway discovers the fragility of their closeness in “Panic” when they are threatened by a school bus carrying teenagers who appear to be pointing a gun at them. “Landfill” poignantly shows a hardworking Latino family destroyed when their college-student son becomes the victim of a fraternity hazing. A young girl hideously scarred in a household “accident” seeks desperately for a way to survive and forgive her disturbed older sister in the breathlessly powerful “Special,” one of Oates’ best short works, which radiates the feeling of lived experience. In “The Blind Man’s Sighted Daughters,” reminiscent of D.H. Lawrence at his most intuitive, an embittered old man’s guilt over a crime for which he escaped punishment becomes the means by which his adult daughters put him in the emotional place he belongs and, just possibly, save themselves. Other stories focused repetitively on filial and fraternal attraction-repulsion (e.g., “Cutty Sark,” “Vigilante”) are less compelling, and the five concluding tales, primarily satirical, feel too familiar. “Dear Joyce Carol” shows a prominent author being harassed in letters by a deranged admirer who proclaims herself Joyce Carol’s rival and equal; it’s a concept Oates has used a few too many times. “Mistrial” tells the old, old story about a lonely juror attracted to a charmingly sinister defendant. “Dear Husband” is yet another companion to Oates’ novels Blonde and My Sister, My Love, channeling the story of child-murdering mother Andrea Yates into a fulsome autobiographical letter written from prison. Still, the onrushing prose and stabbing emotional intensity that are Oates’ greatest strengths imbue the volume with compulsive readability.

One of this indefatigable author’s best books in some time.

Pub Date: March 31, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-170431-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


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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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.


When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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