The similarities to today are riveting and chilling.

BOOTH

Ostensibly about the family of Shakespearean actors best known for their connection to Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, Fowler’s novel explores tensions surrounding race, politics, and culture in 19th-century America.

Given his upbringing in a vegetarian, strongly anti-slavery, highly literate, freethinking household that even today would be labeled bohemian, how did John became a pro-slavery, pro-secessionist fanatic capable of terrorist murder? And how did his actions affect his surviving family? Alcoholic, eccentrically idealistic Junius Booth is a major star on the British stage when he and his “wife,” Mary, run away to rural Maryland while he is still married to another woman. Of their 10 offspring, six survive past early childhood. Bright oldest daughter Rosalie dotes on charming Johnny but is keenly perceptive about his weaknesses. (In a heartbreaking depiction of Victorian women’s limited options, Rosalie’s own sparkle fades into genteel alcoholism after she's forced to forego education and marriage and become the family caregiver.) Brother Edwin is quiet, responsible, maybe even dull compared to charismatic John, but despite sharing the family addiction to alcohol, Edwin has the discipline, intelligence, and talent that John lacks to succeed as an actor. To his own—and John’s resentful—surprise, Edwin becomes America’s foremost actor, maintaining his prestige despite his brother’s infamy. Staunchly abolitionist and pro-union, Edwin, who once saved Robert Lincoln’s life, and Rosalie are increasingly aghast at John’s increasingly crazed behavior and racist ravings. More conflicted is sister Asia, who shares John’s charm as well as his prickly disposition; after the assassination, she finds herself briefly under suspicion. As the Booths’ story unfolds, Fowler inserts major national events into the narrative, like the Dred Scott case and John Brown’s uprising, along with key moments in Lincoln’s life showing his humanity as well as his public nobility. The historical context she offers is of a pre–Civil War America of deep moral divides, political differences tearing close families apart, populism and fanaticism run amok.

The similarities to today are riveting and chilling.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-33143-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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

IT STARTS WITH US

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 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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