A lyrical, fragmentary, and heartfelt story about the beauty and difficulty of artistic isolation.

DRIFTS

A free-spirited, essayistic novel exploring the complex links among art, parenthood, and making a living.

If this foray into autofiction by Zambreno (Screen Tests, 2019, etc.) initially feels aimless, that’s by design. Trying to make ends meet as a writer and teacher in New York, the unnamed narrator is struggling to complete a book tentatively titled Drifts. Her goal is to tell a story that’s intimate yet free of story arcs and the baggage of character: It is “my fantasy of a memoir about nothing.” So the forward movement in the early going has less to do with plot than its “series of moods or textures,” the steady accrual of quotidian events: reading about artists and poets (Rilke and Dürer are particular favorites); arguing with her husband about moving; walking the dog; masturbating; binge-watching TV. Zambreno holds the reader thanks to the punchy, brief paragraphs and her quirky, gemlike sentences (“I began smoking again after we saw the stray kitten hit by one of the speeding cars on the corner”). The narrative gets a sense of order (or a different kind of disarray) once the narrator becomes pregnant; there’s less of a feeling of “the vastness and ephemerality of the day,” but Zambreno harbors no easy platitudes about how motherhood gives women a sense of purpose. (The section covering it is titled “Vertigo.”) Rather, it applies a different kind of economic, emotional, and artistic pressure, prompting the narrator to think further about how her physical transformation impacts her senses of time and self. The charm of this novel is how it makes this deep uncertainty feel palpable and affecting; its fragmentary nature is a feature, not a bug. Adrift, the narrator engagingly tangles with everything from the Kardashians to Joseph Cornell for a sense of fellow-feeling.

A lyrical, fragmentary, and heartfelt story about the beauty and difficulty of artistic isolation.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08721-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

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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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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