Poems of craft, power, and compassion: a fine collection.

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WOMEN IN THE WAITING ROOM

Kapur’s collected poems compellingly respond to afflictions and healing in women’s lives.

This second collection for Kapur, following Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist (2015), was a finalist for the National Poetry Series; many of the poems first appeared in literary magazines while two won awards and were anthologized. Several threads weave through the book, including Hindu mythology, conversations on a crisis hotline, and the ravages of illness for both sufferer and onlooker. Much of the work addresses the corrosive ways girls are portrayed as responsible for their own rape and abuse. Drawing on the Hindu epic Ramayana, in which Sita, wife of Rama, must prove her innocence via fire ordeal after being kidnapped by a demon king, Kapur writes in her opening poem that “Every girl can be taught / her middle name is shame.” Whether ancient or contemporary, the same story prevails, as suggested by the poetic form in “Steubenville Ghazal” (referring to the 2013 Steubenville High School rape case). An Arabic poetry form dating to the seventh century, the ghazal is written in couplets that repeat an ending refrain—in this case, a preposition plus him. Narrated by the survivor, the building up of this phrase leads to a devastating conclusion: “My name is redacted, it no longer applies. / I end every line writing him, him, him,” just as media accounts tended to focus on harm to the promising futures of the accused.

The spareness of Kapur’s lines throughout the collection speaks of emotions that must be contained; in the hotline poems, fragmentary lines halt and hesitate across the page as the callers struggle to articulate their stories. “I wish the old me would         just,” reads one unfinished, perhaps unfinishable, thought. Such lines thrum with coiled tension. Throughout, the speaker’s role is often to bear witness, sometimes in ways that can find expression only on the page. As a hotline worker, she’s been trained not to react with shock; as a hospital visitor, in the poetry cycle that gives the collection its name, she must be circumspect: “I watch the last / whip of light blurring the far bank slip away. / It will be back tomorrow. I know better than to say so.” Kapur’s craft is everywhere evident, as in these lines from “Waiting for Sleep, I Imagine Sita in Her Youth,” a poem that also uses imagery from Sita’s captivity, though the she in the poem could be any Indian woman: “From the window she could see / women from every corner of the city // walk into the river, disappear / then rise clean, saris soaking.” The sibilants in these lines onomatopoeically recall the rush and rinse of water, as they do in the final stanza when the speaker imagines herself with Sita in the river, “so we might both rise ready / to wring out the story.” The alliteration of window/women/walk and rise/ready/wring skillfully enacts both the connection described and the process of transforming experience through the work of art making.

Poems of craft, power, and compassion: a fine collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62557-823-5

Page Count: 85

Publisher: Black Lawrence Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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