CALL ME CASSANDRA

A haunting meditation on identity and violence.

A figure from Greek mythology is reborn in the Caribbean in this novel by the award-winning author of The Black Cathedral (2020).

In 1975, Cuba sent troops to support the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola in that country’s civil war. Over the next decade and a half, more than 300,000 Cubans would participate in this proxy war between Soviet-style communism and Western powers led by the United States. This is the historical backdrop for Gala’s tale of a boy from the port city of Cienfuegos who believes that he is the reincarnation of Cassandra, the priestess of Apollo “forever condemned to know the future and never be believed.” Rauli’s sense that he is in the wrong time and place is exacerbated by the fact that he is a slight, fair, bookish boy who likes to wear dresses in a culture that prizes machismo. His difference will make him a target—for other kids, for his fellow soldiers, for the captain who brutally abuses him—but it also gives meaning to a life that he knows will be short. Because he has Cassandra’s curse, he knows that he will die in Angola at 19. Before he dies, though, he will converse with Greek gods and African orishas and be accompanied by a chorus of Erinyes that gives his story the shape of classical tragedy. Fate hangs over this novel. Rauli cannot escape his doom any more than the nymph Thetis can protect her son, Achilles, by dressing him as a girl. Of course, the clothes that are meant to disguise Achilles’ true nature reveal Rauli’s, but it’s a truth that he is compelled to keep hidden. The Cuban conscript is not a great warrior, and his grave will be an unmarked patch of jungle, but—unlike the hero of the Iliad—Rauli has the power to give voice to his own story.

A haunting meditation on identity and violence.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3746-0201-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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