GOOD INTENTIONS

An exploration of the ways that race and family ties may complicate or imperil romance even if everyone means well.

A debut novel that suggests the term "star-crossed romance" may just be a way of pinning on the innocent cosmos the damage we do ourselves, without meaning to.

Nur is a young Brit, eldest son in a close-knit family of Pakistani immigrants. As the novel begins on New Year's Eve, he is about to spill the news to his parents that he has, for the last four years, been seeing a woman—has for the last two of those been living with her, secretly—and that he intends to marry her. Yasmina is charming, self-possessed, lovely, intelligent, a Ph.D. student with a bright future; she's also the child of immigrants, also a practicing Muslim. But Nur's announcement has been long-delayed, and it feels guilty and furtive and fraught, an occasion for anxiety rather than joy. So why the hesitation, the cloak-and-dagger—why the lies? Because Yasmina's family is Sudanese, and Nur worries about his family's response to her Blackness. The rest of the book moves backward to depict, uncomfortably but effectively, the private history that's led to Nur's announcement and moves forward to explore the implications of his delay and reluctance for his relationships with both his family and Yasmina. The backward-looking part of the book has the plot of conventional romance; the forward-looking part, which explores the aftermath of Nur's announcement (built largely around his dithery way of arranging a first meeting between his parents and Yasmina's), is fresher and more compelling. In the tradition of Spike Lee's film School Daze, Ali's novel explores the ways that racism may do its insidious damage even among those who are traditionally not its targets and victims. Despite Nur's sense that he's impeccably right-minded and anti-racist, despite the fact that he truly loves Yasmina and wants to make his life with her, his insistence on putting off and putting off telling his family about his beloved may be less a realist's acknowledgment of the racism in the world than a kind of accommodation of or even collusion with it.

An exploration of the ways that race and family ties may complicate or imperil romance even if everyone means well.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-80960-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

THE WOMEN

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

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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