Gorgeous and heartbreaking.


A brilliant meditation on time, mortality, and the limits of memory.

Ullmann is a journalist, a literary critic, and the author of several novels—most recently The Cold Song (2014). She is also the daughter of the actor Liv Ullmann and the legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. This memoir in the shape of a novel—or novel based on memoir—began as a series of conversations the writer had with her father shortly before he died. While much of the book is devoted to her early life—when her father was fit and commanding—a sense of loss permeates the narrative. Ullmann recounts the precise instant when it became clear that the man she knew was gone: The studiously punctual Bergman is late to meet her for a movie showing, a daily ritual that has been part of his life for decades. Ullmann is shocked in the moment, but it’s only in retrospect that she recognizes it for what it is. The recordings Ullmann made—which appear in transcript form throughout the book—function more as talismans than as documentary evidence of the man her father was. The sound quality is poor. The conversation is halting, and there are gaps in Bergman’s memory. What Ullmann wants to capture is already in the process of disappearing. So, she’s left with her own memories. Certainly, her memories are singular. Bergman had multiple wives and mistresses and many, many children and grandchildren, all of whom come and go on the isolated island where the director has made his home. Ullmann’s situation is exceptional, but the emotional experiences she describes are poignant and accessible. When she recounts scenes from her childhood, she sometimes speaks in the first person and she sometimes calls herself “the girl,” underscoring the sense in which past selves are constructions we create in the present. And, of course, her memories of her father as a younger man may be vivid, but they are no more reliable than those garbled digital recordings of her father in his decline. Ullmann’s prose is elegant (her translator deserves some credit for this), sharp, and occasionally funny. But the mood of this work as a whole is elegiac. “Can I,” she asks, “mourn people who are still alive?”

Gorgeous and heartbreaking.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-60994-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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

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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

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


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

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