Rigorously unsentimental yet suffused with emotion: possibly the best work yet from an always stimulating writer.

STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY

An architect and his wife grapple with the aftermath of a catastrophic accident in Weber’s sixth novel (True Confections, 2009, etc.).

Duncan is left with a spinal injury after his car is broadsided by an 18-wheeler on the way back from one of the custom homes for wealthy clients that are his firm’s bread and butter. Wheelchair-bound and with the use of only one weak hand, he sinks into a suicidal depression his wife, Laura, hopes will be alleviated by Ottoline, a “monkey helper” trained to perform simple manual tasks he once took for granted. Duncan does develop a bond with Ottoline, and Weber captures in amusing detail her charged interactions with Laura, viewed as a rival for their alpha male. Overall, however, the tone is dark; Duncan broods over Todd, the apprentice architect who died in the crash, and he remains angrily uncooperative with Laura’s attempts to construct a new normal in their changed lives. Weber elucidates both spouses’ struggles in a tough-minded narrative studded with the shrewd, not especially charitable observations that are her trademark. Twenty-five-year-old Todd is nailed with the comment, “As was true of so many of his generation, [he] thought he was entirely original in all of his gentleman hobo hipster choices”; a partner in Duncan’s firm is dismissed as “secretly convinced of his own superiority…he always looked as if he had just returned from a safari or an ice-climbing expedition.” There are also tender moments between Duncan and his "tentative, unambitious" twin, Gordon, and a poignant episode when Laura finds and frames the one truly original design Duncan completed in architecture school before settling for a career doing “highly adequate and entirely unremarkable work.” Missed chances, like the baby the couple failed to conceive, jostle painful acknowledgments of underappreciated pleasures now denied Duncan, like gardening and cooking. His catalog of everything he has lost and his belated acknowledgment of the burden Laura has also borne form the keening climax to this stark and compelling novel.

Rigorously unsentimental yet suffused with emotion: possibly the best work yet from an always stimulating writer.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58988-129-7

Page Count: 287

Publisher: Paul Dry Books

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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