An earnest tale that explores the frictions of black-white romantic relationships.

THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE

A NOVEL

A social novel tells the story of an interracial liaison disrupted by questionable criminal charges.

Sidonie Frame and Chris Hawkins are not the most obvious couple—she’s a white, suburban-raised manager of one of Chicago’s hottest music venues; he’s a black sound engineer from the South Side. But when Sidonie hires Chris sight unseen for a one-night event, they unexpectedly hit it off. The chemistry is real and intense, but is it a good idea? “This is crazy,” thinks Chris. “What am I thinking? This could jeopardize the job. Complicating my life right now is not a smart move. She’s so beautiful.…Is it the best idea to get involved with a white woman…and my boss?” They end up hooking up and then dating, but as they attempt to settle into the rhythms of each other’s lives, they discover that there is a learning curve to interracial dating. Neither of their families is completely accepting, and both partners are forced to reckon with their own pre-conceived notions of the other’s race. Sidonie, in particular, is compelled to recognize for the first time the prejudice that Chris routinely faces and her own white privileges. It isn’t always easy, especially during a series of uncomfortable encounters with the police that threaten to disrupt the balance of their relationship. This culminates in Chris being implicated in a rape case, forcing Sidonie to decide what she truly believes—and whether the relationship is worth all the trouble. Wilke’s (Hysterical Love, 2015, etc.) prose is cautious and empathetic, probing at the edges of politeness, taboo, and uncomfortable truth, as when Sidonie’s mother reacts to the news of Chris’ race: “Well, I guess I had no idea that was something that appealed to you, Sidonie.”  The book portrays only one—fairly conventional—interracial narrative and does so in what some might consider a heavy-handed fashion. But the directness and openness with which the author explores the topic as well as its continuing relevance make this a novel that will still read as daring to many.

An earnest tale that explores the frictions of black-white romantic relationships.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-559-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2019

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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