An intriguing but ultimately underwhelming architecture tale.

THE FREEDOM BUILDING

An architect wakes up unable to remember the last three years—the most successful of his career—in this debut novel.

When the Zenith Star building in downtown Blanworth is destroyed in a terrorist attack, local architect John Gowan isn’t overly upset. In fact, John jokes that it was probably an architect who blew up the ugly glass tower. He wonders who will get the contract to build the replacement, though his partner, Pete Williams, assures him it will be a bigger firm than theirs. Even so, John begins to fantasize about the building he would put on the site if given the chance. Following a car accident, John awakes in a hospital bed, assuming a day has passed at most. It turns out that it’s actually been three and a half years. But John hasn’t been in a coma the whole time: During the elapsed period, he actually managed to win the contract to replace the Zenith Star building. “Three and a half years ago,” he reads incredulously in the newspaper, “after the destruction of the old Zenith Star building, the little-known architect John Gowan had a dream to design a new building that might not only restore Blanworth’s city skyline” but revolutionize it. The new construction based on his design is scheduled to begin that same day. John simply has no memory of any of it. What’s more, when he tries to look at the image of his design in the paper, his vision becomes blurry. In fact, when he attempts to look at any blueprints or specs of the building, he is simply incapable of seeing them. Struggling to keep his condition a secret, John sets out to discover exactly what happened to him to cause him to lose his memory, unveiling a mystery that is much deeper than any terrorist conspiracy. Kendall has concocted a nifty little puzzle, reminiscent of a plotline from The Twilight Zone or perhaps Black Mirror. But as pure literature, the book is somewhat problematic. The author attempts a heightened prose yet ends up using odd words and causing comprehension difficulties: “The town was set in a valley, and its dirty streets reflected a pale spring sun that scattered deadweight over the town. Red brick slums oozed false pride onto the entrapped town centre. Those who earned enough fled to the far-reaching countryside.” John is a flat and unlikable character, and while readers will be curious about what has caused his amnesia, they will have little affection for him personally due to his vanity and lack of empathy for others. He undergoes no Scrooge-like epiphany by the end; rather, the opinion of the author seems to be that John simply didn’t believe in himself enough (though even on this point, things aren’t clearly articulated). The lack of a compelling emotional core undermines the captivating premise, causing it all to feel like a thought exercise more than an immersive human experience. A book that clearly wants to be about something ends up being about not very much at all.

An intriguing but ultimately underwhelming architecture tale.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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