With resonant characters and a great sense of place, this novel rarely goes where you’d expect, and is stronger for it.

RUTHIE FEAR

The mundane and the extraordinary converge in this novel of one Montana woman’s life.

Neither Loskutoff’s novel nor the character who inspires its title is easy to summarize. To say that this book covers several decades in the life of its protagonist and tracks her shifting bonds with her father and some of the other residents of a rural Montana town would be accurate. That description wouldn’t get at the mysteries that this book contains, nor would it properly encapsulate the memorable contradictions held by Ruthie herself. The early pages introduce Ruthie as a child, raised by her father. At the age of 5, she sees a bizarre creature in a nearby canyon. “A tall feathered thing, it lurched toward the creek on two long, spindly, double-jointed legs.” Even more alarming is the fact that it lacks a head. This intrusion of the uncanny into an otherwise realistic novel is the first indication that Loskutoff is willing to take this narrative into unexpected places. A number of other scenes, though more overtly realistic, offer a similarly dizzying experience. One, in which a high school–aged Ruthie is caught in a violent incident, is harrowing for its suddenness. Omens and dreams punctuate the novel, including a particularly vivid dream involving moss and dead skin. An early reference to “her short life” hints at something terrible to come for Ruthie—but the arc of this novel is anything but predictable. Its conclusion represents a bold and potentially divisive decision on Loskutoff’s part—but ultimately a powerful and evocative one that casts a number of earlier scenes in sharp relief.

With resonant characters and a great sense of place, this novel rarely goes where you’d expect, and is stronger for it.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63556-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

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 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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