A moving and life-affirming portrait of grief that’s sure to bring the tears.

PACK UP THE MOON

A young widower begrudgingly attempts to move on when he receives assignments from his beloved late wife.

Joshua Park has never had an easy time getting close to people. He’s brilliant, with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and a job as a medical device engineer, but as someone on the autism spectrum, he often doesn’t pick up on social cues. But none of that is an issue with his wife, Lauren, a public space designer. The two of them are madly in love with one another—and then Lauren is diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease in which fibers grow in her lungs and make breathing difficult (and, eventually, impossible). Her terminal diagnosis means that their marriage will be briefer than they ever imagined…but, unbeknownst to Josh, Lauren has a plan to take care of him when she’s gone. After Lauren’s death, Josh doesn’t know how he’ll get through the day, let alone the rest of his life. But then the first letter comes. Before her death, Lauren wrote him a letter for each month of his first year without her, each one containing a task that will help him keep going. They start out relatively easy (going to the grocery store) but gradually require him to open himself up more. Lauren’s instructions initially annoy Josh, but eventually he begins to connect with new people—and the people who were already there for him. Higgins deftly navigates a premise that could’ve been sappy and instead turns it into something poignant, realistic, and occasionally even funny. Josh and Lauren never seem like caricatures of a grieving widower or a selfless, angelic dead wife. Instead, they are fully rounded characters with flaws and eccentricities. The story alternates between Josh’s present-day attempts to live his new life and Lauren’s point of view in the past, making her feel like a real person instead of just a saintly presence. The amount of detail around Lauren’s disease is both impressive and heartbreaking to read. The characters surrounding Josh and Lauren are all complex and quirky, and seeing Josh accept love from the people in his life, both from new friends and old family members, is just as sob-inducing as reading about how he loses Lauren.

A moving and life-affirming portrait of grief that’s sure to bring the tears.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-451-48948-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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