Shriver has written some fine novels. Run away from this one.


A sexagenarian starts working out. Is it self-care...or something more sinister?

What on earth is happening to Lionel Shriver? In novels like The Post-Birthday World (2007), she stood out as a savvy, cleareyed observer of human foibles. Of late, though, her fiction has become increasingly hectoring, determined to call out what she sees as PC groupthink and browbeat her own characters for their gumption deficits. Here, her bugbear is people who cultishly abuse their bodies in the name of good health. The drama centers on Remington, who’s decided to run a marathon at 64 after leaving his job at New York's state transportation agency. His wife, Serenata, ought to be immediately supportive, being a fitness junkie herself. But she prides herself on being a freethinker (she invented her own workouts! She invented the hair scrunchie all by herself!) and sees marathons as a fad. Remy, she thinks, has “caught a contagion, like herpes.” To her relief, Remy barely wheezes across the marathon’s finish line, but en route finds a booster in a trainer named Bambi Buffer, who spews uplift while pressing Remy to train for a triathlon. Serenata sees cow-eyed conformists wherever she looks: in Bambi, in Remy’s fellow triathletes, in her own insufferable born-again daughter. But Shriver’s juiciest target is the woman who cost Remington his job, a simplistically rendered social justice warrior bogeyman: an unqualified 27-year-old Nigerian woman with a gender-studies degree who becomes Remington’s boss and then deliberately works to undermine him as an older white man. Alas, no triathlon can conquer the injustice of it all. There’s a note of intentional satire here: Remington’s goals and Serenata’s judgments are both inflated for effect. But in the process, Shriver has made a cartoon of her talents as a social observer.

Shriver has written some fine novels. Run away from this one.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-232825-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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