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AGELESS CONFESSIONS

A respectably ambitious but unfocused debut novel.

An experimental work of fiction that eventually focuses on characters in the orbit of an eating-disorder treatment center.

The book begins with a biblical prologue in Jerusalem in 985 B.C.E. featuring King David of Israel before quickly jumping onboard the ship Confessions that’s en route to Portugal in 1431. The captain is searching for his daughter, Aria, who created the “sacred book belonging to royalty,” the Fleurs de Lys. Shortly thereafter, the story focuses on Bird, a weathered woman who lives in a graveyard. These characters are never brought up again after the scene switches to the City of Roses eating-disorder clinic in the Canadian community of Rockland in 1998, run by a woman named Maggie. One day at the clinic, caregiver Carla roughly attempts to feed a patient; when her new co-worker, Erin, sees this, the latter accuses the clinic of force-feeding. Erin goes on to write a newspaper story about City of Roses that eventually results in the clinic’s shutdown. Maggie’s daughter, Gabrielle, later writes a book about the clinic that’s made into a movie; the deceased Ebony Velvet was a former patient there, and Maggie’s determined to share her story. The next section focuses on Ebony’s experience in the hospital;she has a baby whomshe names Snowflake Princess, aka Ivory, who’s the central character of the remainder of the work. There’s definite promise in Street’s prose, as she has a knack for poetic description: “When kindness would rule as a queen, the night would be star-thick, spelling joy from one generation to the next.” At times, though, the highly detailed writing feels somewhat stilted and awkward: “When Ebony tried not to listen, Chloe spoke. She carried a black Bible. Ebony felt helpless to change her.” Overall, the execution of the story is uneven, as the earlier sections don’t tie into the later parts and feel more like separate stories; it’s unclear what the author’s attempting to do or say with this unusual structure. The work has potential, but it would have benefited from more straightforward organization.

A respectably ambitious but unfocused debut novel.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2021

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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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