Long and diffuse, but, as with all Oates, well worth reading.


An already frayed family disintegrates in the wake of a tragedy.

Oates doesn’t always write long, but when she does, as in The Accursed (2013), the story enfolds a wealth of detail. Whether all of it is necessary is debatable. In this instance, John Earle McLaren, a respected elder in a small New York town, formerly its mayor, stops to admonish two cops who are rousting a "dark-skinned" motorist. Tased to the ground, McLaren spends what’s left of his life in the hospital, though it takes a few signatures for Oates to finish him off. The event draws together his very different children, who had always “contended for the father’s attention.” It wasn’t that Whitey, as he was widely known, was a cold fish so much as he was committed to the notion of being self-sufficient—and secretive, too, as the hidden bank accounts that turn up after his passing demonstrate. Meanwhile, daughter Beverly in particular is incensed that the siblings she regards as unworthy receive equal shares of the inheritance while Jessalyn, their mother, is set for life. Death pulls brothers and sisters together and apart. The most likable (and completely realized) character is son Virgil, who disconsolately flirts with death himself—“He’d drowned, but not died. Died, but was still here.” Daughter Lorene, too, a high school principal, undergoes a transformation that makes her at once more vulnerable and more human. Oates’ storyline would be the stuff of comedy in other hands—think of the recent movie Knives Out, for instance—but she makes of it a brooding, thoughtful study of how people respond to stress and loss, which is not always well and not always nicely. Yet, somehow, everyone endures, some experience unexpected happiness, and the story ends on a note that finds hope amid sorrow and division.

Long and diffuse, but, as with all Oates, well worth reading.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-279758-2

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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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.


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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