Next book

THE WEEDS

A lyrical meditation on power, need, and love.

Two women are roiled by loss and desire.

Smith returns to Rome, the setting of her novel The Everlasting (2020), to render, in luminous prose, the lives of two unnamed women, a century apart, grieving, angry, and defiant. Each is engaged in botanical data collection: One, in 1854, assists British botanist Richard Deakin, who aims to record every species of plant growing in the Colosseum. Her father, outraged because she fell in love with a woman, indentured her to Deakin as punishment. In 2018, another woman combs the Colosseum: a graduate student from Mississippi working for a demeaning academic adviser, assigned to compare Deakin’s catalog with flora of the present day. Both women are haunted by loss: one, of her lover, who married; the other, of her mother, an amateur naturalist, who died when she was 15. Her mother taught her that plants “meant something. Not just in the doctrine-of-signatures way, or the yellow-rose-for-friendship way,” but in a deeply spiritual way. The only proof of beauty, her mother believed, “was a piece of living green pushing through a coffin of spring soil.” Smith makes deft use of Deakin’s Flora of the Colosseum of Rome, published in 1855, which combined meticulous botanical descriptions with information on each plant’s medicinal, culinary, and even literary significance. The women collectors are acutely sensitive to shape, texture, and odor and alert, as well, to plants’ cultural connotations and metaphorical richness: “Some plants, like lovers, are parasitical,” one collector reflects. “Naming carries bias, or bias worms its way to names.” The contemporary collector is enraged by the effects of climate change and rampant tourism on the ecology of the Colosseum. Both women rail against the arrogance and sexism that circumscribe their lives: “What does it take,” they ask, “to survive in this world, as a woman, as a weed?” The book is illustrated with delicate drawings by Schermer-Gramm.

A lyrical meditation on power, need, and love.

Pub Date: April 18, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-60547-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 172


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

THE WOMEN

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 172


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 16


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 16


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

Close Quickview