Vera’s breakout novel is a sweeping, emotional tale that puts her characters, and her readers, through an emotional wringer.

THE TASTE OF SUGAR

A sprawling family epic that stretches from the mountains of Puerto Rico to Hawaii and across decades of love, famine, and war.

Valentina Sánchez comes from a middle-class, urban family in late-19th-century Puerto Rico. Her family has modest dreams, but Valentina luxuriates in her fantasies of marrying a handsome man and seeing Paris. When the dashing Vicente Vega, son of a very wealthy (or so Valentina assumes) coffee farmer, sweeps her off her feet at a cousin’s wedding, Valentina is determined to go against her family’s wishes and marry for love. However, Valentina’s marriage to Vicente never takes flight. Between fending off the advances of her lecherous father-in-law and dealing with the starkly unromantic realities of being married to a coffee farmer who’s actually quite poor, happiness eludes Valentina. As the novel creeps into the 20th century, Valentina’s suffering increases alongside Puerto Rico’s. Caught in the crossfire of the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rican farmers experience Spanish tax hikes, drought, American devaluation of the peso, and finally American occupation. Hurricane San Ciriaco kills thousands and washes away not just farms, but Puerto Rico’s dreams of self-rule. Eventually, Vicente and Valentina are lured by false promises to Hawaii, another U.S. territory described as paradise but rife with violence and exploitation. Vera tells a grand story using innovative techniques. The chapters tend to be short and are frequently interspersed with letters, detours into the past, and theatrical monologues. The Vega and Sánchez families are made up of vivid, fully realized characters, and Vera has a knack for writing dialogue that is full of personality. Her descriptions of Puerto Rico’s natural beauty are impressive: “[Vicente and Valentina] meant only to look up at the stars from the veranda, but the scent of orchids lured them into the garden and soon they were enveloped by coconut palms. Las damas de noches opened their white petals for the moon, and the moon mistook the silver embroidery on Valentina’s dress for stars.” Where the novel runs ashore is in grappling with historical events. Vega chronicles the exploitation of Puerto Rico by the Spanish and then the Americans, and the reader will emerge with a deep sense of Puerto Rican history and suffering that has been lost to most Americans, but at times the author's devotion to historical details and anecdotes pushes the beautifully wrought characters aside.

Vera’s breakout novel is a sweeping, emotional tale that puts her characters, and her readers, through an emotional wringer.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63149-773-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 38

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller

REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more