THE TREE DOCTOR

An affecting story of personal transformation, as broody as it is erotic.

A stifled Japanese American writer, separated from her family during the pandemic, finds unexpected intimacy with an arborist.

When an unnamed middle-aged writer and professor learns her mother has been diagnosed with dementia, she returns to her Northern California childhood home, leaving her two daughters and husband behind in Hong Kong. This decision coincides with the onset of the pandemic—referred to coyly as “the sickness”—and suddenly what was supposed to be a short stay has no end in sight. Having placed her mother in a care facility, the narrator splits her time between teaching an online college course on Japanese aesthetics; video calling her husband, who is preoccupied by work; and tending to her mother’s expansive but struggling garden. A local nursery recommends she consult with a man known as the Tree Doctor, whose body immediately enthralls her: His eyes “suggested to her something molten whirling around at his core”; his “hands were like the branches of an oak.” What follows is a raw, passionate affair spent between the garden and the bedroom, where the Tree Doctor uncovers a desire the writer is unaccustomed to, and where she pushes herself toward the overlap of pleasure and pain. Isolated from society, she rediscovers herself in her body, invigorated by the idea that she is at her core a piece of nature. “Can you wake up a body the way you can wake up a tree?” she asks, and indeed that seems to be the case. Through a yearning first-person narration, the protagonist’s trials evoke difficult but vital questions about survival and endurance: When does a person admit that a loved one’s declining health can’t be reversed? When does a society concede the fact that “there would never again be a ‘normal’” and learn to adapt? These interrogations are threaded seamlessly into the narrator’s pursuit of her own power, a pursuit that reveals just how liberating the decision to dismantle and reassemble one’s self can be.

An affecting story of personal transformation, as broody as it is erotic.

Pub Date: March 19, 2024

ISBN: 9781644452776

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

THE WOMEN

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

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

GIRL ABROAD

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

A rock star’s daughter decides to study abroad in search of her own experiences, finding romance and intrigue along the way.

For 19-year-old Abbey Bly, having a rock star for a father isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For one thing, she shares her name with Abbey Road, and for another, the only version of the famous Gunner Bly she knows is the helicopter parent she lives with in Nashville. Hoping to find her way outside her father’s sphere of influence, Abbey decides to spend a semester in London studying European history at Pembridge University. Promising to keep her father updated on every aspect of life abroad, Abbey heads to her shared apartment expecting to find three female roommates…only to find that she’s actually living with three men. Afraid that Gunner will order her home, Abbey decides to keep Lee, Jack, and Jamie’s gender a secret (lucky their names sound androgynous!) and sets her sights on adventure. While working on a research project about a mysterious painting and adapting to Britain’s drinking culture, Abbey finds time to explore a little romance despite her housemates’ strict no-fraternizing rule. First there’s Jack, a commitment-phobic Australian hottie who can’t seem to stay away from Abbey; then there’s Nate, a sexy bassist who keeps forgetting he’s taken. Toying with nonexclusive relationships and exploring her sexuality, Abbey can’t help but feel excited about all the experience she’s gaining, but has she really, truly found herself? Kennedy’s novel is a page-turner—who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and meet interested potential lovers down the hall? Abbey is a relatable character who yearns to stand outside her father’s shadow, and though the love triangle is a focal point, it never outshines the heroine’s growth.

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781728299792

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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