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99 ERICS

A KAT CATACLYSM FAUX NOVEL

Knocks down literary conventions, sexual stereotypes, the fourth wall, and more in enthusiastic defense of the weird.

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Serano satirically tackles gender norms, linguistics, hipsters, and more as her fictional character writes a book about dating 99 different people—all named Eric.

Kat Cataclysm is an absurdist short story writer and self-identified “weirdo”—an out bisexual, nonmonogamous “ethical slut” with an interest in baseball, linguistics, and delicious India pale ales. She’s also fictional, a not quite nom de guerre (but still a warrior!) of author Serano, and has a long-held desire to be a novelist despite her self-confessed title of “queen of conflict avoidance,” an unfortunate trait when most novels thrive on conflict. So instead, she commits to a “faux novel” about her “her supposed experiences dating 99 different people named Eric” as she seeks to subvert other conventions of fiction as well, vowing to never overcome adversity or grow as a person along the way. Kat uses these Erics as opportunities to draw out poignant points about gentrification, internalized homophobia, bisexual stereotypes, and the disposability of the gig economy while also obsessing over penis-chewing banana slugs or dealing with the fallout of an internet listicle on the common cold she authored literally going viral. When she sics a roomful of zombified children on a tiresome screenwriter, it’s clear she’s aware of her role as omniscient narrator. Serano has written about gender identity and feminism in her nonfiction books Whipping Girl(2007) and Excluded(2013); she explores many of the same ideas in her debut work of fiction. The writing is conversational in style, and though Kat claims to be uninterested in banal descriptions, the scene-setting in various California locales works well. Kat recalls the Manic Pixie Dream Girls so often used in male-oriented stories, but she’s decidedly more warts and all in her presentation, almost too quirky to function, and enthusiastic about her role as ruler of all the Erics. The result is a lovable composite of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966) and a less murder-y version of Marvel’s Deadpool, using absurdism and humor to break down the fourth wall and the very idea of “normal,” with all its silly little boxes and prejudices. If that makes the book sound serious, it isn’t—and that might be the most effective way it makes its readers think about identity.

Knocks down literary conventions, sexual stereotypes, the fourth wall, and more in enthusiastic defense of the weird.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9968810-4-3

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Switch Hitter Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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