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LEVINSON OF HARVARD

A compulsively readable university tale of identity and acceptance.

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Vincent offers a novel of intergenerational drama at Harvard University.

As the story opens in 2008, Philadelphia-based Mark Levinson is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attending his 35th class reunion at Harvard. At the festivities, he meets Becca Wyatt, with whom he'd once had a brief but passionate fling. Their own personal reunion is an uncomfortable one, and she leaves him with a mysterious package that dovetails with his own project to chronicle his family history: Despite family lore, it turns out there’s no record of Mark's grandfather Michael Levinson ever having attended Harvard in the early years of the 20th century. Thus unfolds the fascinating story of a bygone era at the university and a young man named Chauncey Bates Porter who wants more than anything to be a big man on campus and be accepted into exclusive groups—such as the Institute of 1770, which transformed into the famed Hasty Pudding Club in 1927. But as Mark’s research progresses, involving awkward interviews with elderly relatives who thought the past was dead and buried, he becomes increasingly aware of the fact that his grandfather, along with Porter, was hiding a whopper of a secret that might upend Mark’s own life nearly a century hence. Over the course of this novel, Vincent expertly balances the inquiries of his narrative’s present-day story with the urgencies of the Harvard of Michael’s time. The result is a stylish and surprisingly gripping family drama. “There always has to be an endpoint to historical research, and it always feels like the endpoint is arbitrary, because in fact, it usually is,” Mark is told at one point. “You can never learn the complete story.” Set against this intriguingly indeterminate backdrop, Vincent brings the old Harvard vividly alive, turning the story on the engaging machinations of a desperate, proud young man who says simply, “I did not want to be invisible. I did not want to be an outsider.”

A compulsively readable university tale of identity and acceptance.

Pub Date: April 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780646876115

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2023

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WOMEN

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

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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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