An overly schematic but powerful study of both marriage and medical care.

SO MUCH FOR THAT

The American health-care system decimates the emotions and finances of one well-meaning citizen in the latest novel by the provocative Shriver (The Post-Birthday World, 2007, etc.).

We open with a bank-account figure: $731,778.56, which is how much 50-something Shep Knacker has squirreled away for retirement. That’s a decent nest egg for a professional handyman like him, but he wants to make his savings let him live like a prince. To that end, he plans to move his family to Pemba, a tiny island off the coast of Zanzibar where his dollars will go much farther. But his wife, Glynis, is diagnosed with cancer, and the novel’s grimly punning title encapsulates what follows: During the course of a year, Shep is forced to abandon his dream as Glynis’ aggressive treatments drains his savings. Shriver is captivatingly, unflinchingly expert at exposing how families intuit and sometimes manipulate each other’s personality tics, and the novel is at its finest when it shows the parrying between the put-upon Shep and Glynis, who remains a harridan even as her body is ravaged. It’s shakier as a polemic against a health-care system that bankrupts families. Shriver embeds the outrage in Shep’s friend and co-worker Jackson, who delivers jeremiads on how government and health-care corporations connive against the common man. (The book is mostly set in 2005, before Congress’ healthcare reform efforts.) Metaphorically overstating the point that institutional greed affects individual vitality, the book also chronicles Jackson’s botched penis-enlargement surgery, and that’s just part of the piling-on: It also tracks the miseries of Jackson’s ailing teenage daughter and Shep’s rapidly declining father. Yet while this sometimes feels like an op-ed writ large, Shriver’s skill at characterization is so solid that Jackson never becomes a plot device. And the ingenious, upbeat ending smartly shows just how far the rat race separates us from our better selves.

An overly schematic but powerful study of both marriage and medical care.

Pub Date: March 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-145858-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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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

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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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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

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