PIPETTE

A quiet, fragmentary novel about the chaos roiling beneath life’s surface.

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A woman confronts her personal demons against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic in Chinquee’s novel in flash fiction.

Elle appreciates order. She’s an Air Force vet with an adult son (who is currently serving in the military himself) and lives in Buffalo with her partner, the fitness-obsessed Henry, and their four dogs. She teaches fiction writing at a local college. She jogs. She tries to learn to ski, though she finds it exhausting and terrifying. In therapy, she explores her relationship with her late father and the ways his schizophrenia affected their relationship. She also consults her spirit guide—whom she imagines as a man in a beret—who helps her reconnect with her memories of childhood. Henry’s emerging Trumpism proves a strain on the relationship—one that gets even worse when he loses his job at a car dealership. Henry kicks Elle out of the house they share, and immediately after she moves into a new neighborhood, Covid hits. In this new life of isolation, Elle adjusts her priorities. “The mattress in the guestroom is comfy, and the frame is broken, so the mattress just sits on the floor…Sometimes I fall asleep to the TV. Some nights I get up and go to the master bedroom, which is clean and organized. Most nights I fall asleep in one bed, wake in the night and move to the other.” As the pandemic wears on, she confronts her troubled relationships with the now-dead men in her family—her father, her uncle, her paternal grandfather—as well as her attachment to dogs and her compulsion to stay in shape. But will greater self-understanding require her to relax her grip on the ordered life she’s long struggled to build?

Chinquee’s measured prose breaks over the reader like shallow, slow-moving waves. Here, Elle jogs in the early days of the pandemic: “The park is pretty bare now. I miss the bustle of bikers, children, people on the golf course. There’s a zoo on one portion of the park and I see some cars there. The zoo is closed. I breathe and take my steps. I opt for another loop. My legs feel heavy. My heart feels heavy. My lungs are pretty healthy.” The novel unfolds as a series of flash fiction stories, most less than a page long, each with its own title. The reading experience is not so different than that of an autofiction novel—The Department of Speculation (2014) by Jenny Offill and The End of the Story (1995) by Lydia Davis come to mind. The narrative unfolds slowly through the accumulation of trivial details: the positions of the dogs on the couch, the exercises Henry is doing, the meals Elle makes with her Vitamix. Chinquee’s moves are oblique, and they often take Elle and the reader away from the most engaging material in favor of the mundane. In doing so, however, the novel replicates a bit of what it’s like to repress or avoid or deny one’s personal issues, sprinting (or biking or skiing) ever forward in hopes our problems can be outrun.

A quiet, fragmentary novel about the chaos roiling beneath life’s surface.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73691-690-2

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Ravenna Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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