An unorthodox but compelling cry against racist violence.

ONE KIND FAVOR

A stylistically thorny novel about a lynching that encompasses prose-poem, satire, ghost story, and other rhetorical somersaults.

The heart of the sixth novel by experimentalist McIlvoy—author of 57 Octaves Below Middle C (2017, etc.)—is a murder: Lincoln, a Black man, is found hanging from a swing set in the predominantly White burg of Cord, North Carolina, aka Crackertown. Investigators are summoned, locals are questioned, and Lincoln’s mother mourns. But little here follows the arc of a procedural. McIlvoy’s fury at racial violence stoked by “Trumpspawn” is clear: Lincoln is lynched on the day of Trump’s election, for starters, and the bigoted authorities are quick to dismiss the murder as a suicide. But the novel’s approach to the killing is oblique. What to make, for instance, of Mr. Panther, one of the investigators, who becomes a habitué of the town while carrying machetes on his person? Or that he falls for the fiddle-playing daughter of a prominent local who died years before and has been reincarnated as a mockingbird? Call it the triumph of free imagination over ignorance and hate: Acker, a character plainly inspired by the late experimental artist and writer Kathy Acker, is the novel’s guiding spirit of art, inclusion, and freedom. As the novel progresses, more characters become (or are revealed to be) “Presences,” ghosts who serve to remind others of the town's racist past and present that the locals prefer to keep unspoken. Throughout the story, McIlvoy pivots from lyrical riffs (“the bloodrust airtaste of the doused, excited, heavy rope”), dark-humored passages about Second Amendment hard-liners, and abstruse plotting. It’s a perpetually disorienting book, but McIlvoy’s approach does establish a certain properly righteous mood: In a town thick with injustice, placid prose and straightforward plotting simply won’t do.

An unorthodox but compelling cry against racist violence.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73298-203-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: WTAW Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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