An offbeat and gripping novel of family pain.

THE ANCESTOR

In Goldberg’s novel of the past and present, a 19th-century man finds himself in modern-day Alaska.

In 2020, a mysterious man finds himself stranded in the freezing wilderness. He doesn’t know where he is or how he got there, or even his name. He’s about to be eaten by a pack of wolves when a pair of hunters save him by shooting off their guns. From a distance, the man notices that one of the hunters looks exactly like him; he hides and sneaks into the back of the hunters’ truck. It ends up in Laner, Alaska, where Travis Barlow, the look-alike, lives with his wife, Callie, and their son, Eli. Travis’ father, Stu, is the town sheriff, and Travis’ grandfather Clifford lives nearby. Travis once had a brother, Bobby, whose cause of death remains a mystery. The newcomer finds a journal in his coat, which helps his memory. His name is Wyatt Barlow, and in 1898, he left his Washington farm to seek gold in Alaska. He determines that he must be a Barlow ancestor who somehow ended up in the future; he also misses his wife and son and recalls a horrible crime he committed. At first, Wyatt scavenges around Laner for food and shelter while taking trips to Travis’ house to spy on the family: “Is this the wife and son he craves?” Eventually, Wyatt presents himself to Travis, who experiences “the awe that a doppelgänger can unearth.” The moment gives them the feeling of “eras colliding.” Travis helps Wyatt get a job, and he, too, becomes fascinated by his double. Travis has been in a rut, and Wyatt’s presence fills him with a sense of adventure, but Wyatt’s plans are less clear as he plots his own future.

Over the course of this novel, Goldberg demonstrates an impressive command of his ensemble, smoothly differentiating multiple characters and detailing their arcs through time. He always keeps the plot moving forward, even when characters turn to the past, such as Stu, who can’t let go of Bobby’s death, and Wyatt, who wishes his wife and child had followed him to the present. Moments of humor brighten the story, as when Wyatt, at length, recalls a fellow traveler correctly identifying him as a gold-rusher: “What gave it away?” Wyatt asks. The man replies, “There ain’t a stench of fish or God on ya.” At other points, Goldberg’s writing is more meditative and reaches an impressive level of emotional clarity, as when Travis considers the sea: “This ocean that brings the town life, but has taken it away too. The final resting place for his brother who went out high on bad shit. He never stood a chance, not even from birth.” The small-town setting, the family dynamics, and the abnormal circumstances of Wyatt’s arrival result in a story that blends the familiar and the supernatural in a manner that call Stephen King’s work to mind. That said, Goldberg’s book possesses a flavor all its own—a distinctive mélange of the sincere and the strange.

An offbeat and gripping novel of family pain.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64396-114-9

Page Count: 329

Publisher: All Due Respect

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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