ECHO ON THE BAY

Fans of Kenzaburo Oe’s Death by Water and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 will enjoy Ono’s enigmatic story.

Atmospheric tale, with shades of the procedural and the coming-of-age story, by Mishima Prize–winning novelist Ono.

Cross García Márquez and Simenon and set the piece on the Sea of Japan, and you’ll have a feel for Ono’s latest, told through the point of view of a middle schooler who’s uprooted from the city by her unambitious father, newly appointed the police chief of a small fishing village. Strange things are afoot there. Dad’s first friend is the town drunk, who’d “endured no real defeats, exhausted by an endless struggle against barriers (the enemy without) and hesitation (the enemy within).” The two stay up late, night after night, drinking while other townies make a sport of sending bottle rockets flying toward the home of a widow named Toshiko. Meanwhile, an election brings out political opponents, one of whom doesn’t have much of a platform except to keep those rockets out of the air, and more than a little whiff of corruption. Ono’s yarn brims with unexpected turns that not only link these matters, but also nimbly move the villagers backward and forward in time and space: Toshiko and the stumbling drunk have a connection that stretches across the sea to Manchuria, where a Japanese army of occupation behaved brutally during World War II, and now Chinese migrants are crossing the same waters in search of jobs in Japan, some dying miserably in the holds of rusting freighters even as a pollution-born red tide devastates the fisheries. Throughout, Ono peppers the story with magic-realist moments: The drunk finds a corpse buried in seaside muck that only he seems able to see while a "rock-like" fisherman and a chemically toxic colonel hover on the edges of an altogether beguiling, swiftly flowing story, one in which everything—well, almost everything—connects in the end.

Fans of Kenzaburo Oe’s Death by Water and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 will enjoy Ono’s enigmatic story.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949641-03-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Two Lines Press

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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