A colorful but somewhat unconvincing novel of impulse and delusion.

STALKER STALKED

A woman with obsessive tendencies becomes the object of someone else’s obsession in Goldberg’s thriller.

Lexi Mazur is a pharmaceutical rep with a pill addiction and a fondness for vodka. She’s just been dumped by her boyfriend, Steve, who’d gotten wise to the fact that she’s been spying on him to make sure he hasn’t been cheating. Now she has little to do in her spare time other than sit around her Queens apartment with her cat, Sammi, and watch reality television shows. Her new favorite is Socialites, which follows a group of rich “frenemies” as they navigate New York City high society. She quickly becomes engrossed by the show’s star, Magnolia Artois, in whom Lexi sees some combination of role model and kindred spirit. She starts to stalk Magnolia on social media, commenting on all her posts, and then starts showing up in person at the show’s filming locations. Magnolia doesn’t react to Lexi’s fandom the way that Lexi wants her to, however, which forces the single-minded woman to escalate things a bit. Then something unexpected happens: Lexi attracts a stalker of her own. “I heard a rustling.…A shadow materialized, stalked away with a scraping sound against the dirt.” At first, Lexi is strangely turned on by it, but then the watcher becomes increasingly intrusive—and threatening, as when she receives a profanity-laden phone call from a restricted number: “I WILL GUT YOU….I’LL SCATTER YOUR BODY PARTS ALL OVER NEW YORK CITY.” But who could it be? Steve? Jeremy, the ex-boyfriend whom she alienated with her extreme behavior? Pria, her longtime best friend, whom Lexi suspects has a secret crush on her? Or is it Magnolia herself?

As Lexi continues in a pill-fueled haze, the lines between stalker and stalked, friend and frenemy, and reality and reality TV become increasingly blurred. Goldberg’s prose, as narrated by the protagonist, is snarky and slightly frenetic in tone: “I found solace when I got home in a pint of ice cream with broken up my blue heavens and a vodka chaser,” begins one chapter, referencing the blue pills that Lexi pops constantly. Another starts off, “Even though I wanted to head home and ooze into the couch watching reality TV, I needed to sell some drugs.” Parts of the novel are quite engrossing. The book is darkly comic, satirizing a number of contemporary institutions—big pharma, reality TV, social media celebrity—while pulling the reader into more transgressive territory involving sex, addiction, violence, and mental illness. However, the author seems to ultimately have very little to say about any of these topics. Also, almost nothing about the story feels terribly believable; its events are slightly too heightened, and Lexi’s thoughts seem slightly too well-organized considering her chaotic lifestyle. The subject matter is so serious on its face—and often in the story, which is not purely a comedy—that Lexi’s characterization feels gratuitous, akin to the shows she loves, which often seem to be messy-for-messy’s-sake.

A colorful but somewhat unconvincing novel of impulse and delusion.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Down & Out Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2021

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

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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 tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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