An intense, recursive book that evokes the chill despair of a Bergman film.

WELCOME TO AMERICA

A girl gives her dysfunctional family an extreme and distressing version of the silent treatment.

Ellen, the narrator of the second novel by Boström Knausgård and first published in the U.S., is certain she’s killed her father, because she constantly prayed for his death. “I had access to God. It was me and God who’d killed my dad,” she tells us early on. That line is more than enough reason to fire up the “Unreliable Narrator” siren, but Boström Knausgård encourages the reader not to dismiss her situation as madness but empathize with it as trauma. Ellen's mentally ill father has been institutionalized and may have tried to kill the family by leaving the gas on; her brother is angry and abusive; her mother, an actress, is distant and narcissistic. (The title refers to her in a role as a “fallen Statue of Liberty.”) In that light, Ellen’s silence (and this book) represents a protective carapace against an adulthood she associates with pain: “I stopped talking when growing began to take up too much space inside me. I was sure I couldn’t do both, grow and talk at the same time.” The mood intensifies as Ellen’s mother and brother pursue their own relationships, but the novel doesn’t have an arc so much as a set of fuguelike variations on Ellen’s musings about death and loss. Boström Knausgård’s writing (via Aitken’s translation) is crystalline and careful; like her ex-husband, Karl Ove Knausgård, she has an eye for quotidian but revealing details, though she eschews his expansiveness. Here, restraint and ambiguity prevail, whether it’s about the intensity of the abuse Ellen sustained or the veracity of her assertions. Regardless, it’s a taut portrait of how difficult it can be to reconcile ideals about faith and family with their messier realities.

An intense, recursive book that evokes the chill despair of a Bergman film.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64286-041-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Did you like this book?

more