CELEBRATING NAKED

A TALE OF LOVE, LOSS, AND FAMILY

An often moving story of familial grief.

A nontraditional family copes with a great loss in this debut novel.

Sissy Cornwall is a force of nature. Her vibrance, spontaneity, and friendliness positively affect everyone in her orbit; her life motto is “No tears.” That’s why married couple Liz and Cliff Gordon gave the widowed, pregnant young woman a place to stay 18 years ago. Now she and her teenage son, Artie, live with them in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Liz and Cliff have two children of their own, Clara and Michael, and Sissy has becomes a permanent fixture in all of their lives. But when Sissy dies after a long illness, the family no longer knows how to interact with one another. Sissy was a role model to Clara, and the teen strictly adheres to Sissy’s “No tears” policy; Artie is afraid of losing the rest of the family, now that his mother is gone; and Cliff and Liz gave so much of their love to Sissy that they seem to have forgotten how to express it to each other. Averill’s novel shines as it examines the nature of different forms of love within the framework of a grieving family. The story brims with vivid descriptions, particularly when Averill sets a scene, though sometimes the excessive detail feels overwrought. Clara’s arc is a standout, and her romantic feelings for Artie will be relatable to anyone who’s experienced the intensity of young love. Even more intriguing are Liz’s and Cliff’s perspectives as they realize that they’ve failed to grow as a couple. Clara is portrayed as smart, funny, and beautiful, unlike most other girls her age, who are, by contrast, said to be “slutty” and unintelligent—a harmful cliché that does the novel a disservice. There are also typographical errors, which can be distracting (“Artie would have found it easy enough to over look her lackluster attributes”). Even so, Averill still delivers a captivating story.

An often moving story of familial grief.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2020

THE WOMEN

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

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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