MOTHER LAND

A slow story that misses the mark.

Rachel, an aimless American newlywed, moves to Mumbai with her husband, Dhruv.

Soon after, his mother, Swati, leaves her husband and life in Kolkata to move in with her son and his new wife. Soon after that, Dhruv’s company sends him to work on a monthlong project in Kolkata, making the women unlikely roommates. The chapters alternate between Rachel's and Swati’s close third-person perspectives, but unfortunately, neither of them contain enough complexity to carry the story. During an argument with Dhruv, Rachel thinks, “He sounded like his father, or like some stereotype from a movie, a cartoon figure, the generic ‘disapproving male.’ ” But the same might be said of the women, who are little more than stale types themselves. Rachel is the quintessential individualistic American. Loving to cook makes up the bulk of her personality. Swati is a traditional Indian woman discovering herself beyond the roles of wife and mother late in life. She insists on hiring a cook against Rachel’s wishes because that is the way things are done among a certain class of Indians. The cook conflict represents the power struggle between the two women, whose desires turn out to be more similar than different, predictably, but it’s too one-note. Both women spend an awful lot of time alone, fuming about the other and ruminating on their own experiences. Rachel stumbles into voice-over work for an Estonian soap opera that’s far more interesting than her own brooding. By the time the plot takes off in the novel's final quarter, when a friend of Rachel’s visiting Mumbai forces her to confront hard truths about her choices and Swati finds a love interest, it’s too late. The friction between Rachel and Swati is belabored and the friendship that eventually develops between them, belated.

A slow story that misses the mark.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293884-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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THE WOMEN

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

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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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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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