Sober and smart writing that evokes the more mannered American stylists of the 1960s and '70s.

THE BUSINESS OF NAMING THINGS

A clutch of well-crafted stories, thick with literary references, that turn on busted relationships between men and women and fathers and sons.

Harold Brodkey, James Joyce, J.F. Powers, Henrik Ibsen—each of these writers finds his way into the eight stories in this first work of fiction by Coffey (Days of Infamy, 1999, etc.). The name-checked authors hint at some of Coffey’s chief concerns—masculinity and faith most prominently—as well as his approach to style. “Inn of the Nations” centers on a priest who’s lost his passion for his calling and pursues an affair with a nun; set shortly after the JFK assassination, the brief story describes how “he’d become hardened to his own sin” but is without religious sanctimony. The broader “Sons” pursues a similar theme, following an alcoholic poet as he worries that his son is complicit in a calamity that makes national news; in Coffey’s hands, the man’s drunken fog reveals his self-loathing even while he busily labors to obscure it. This collection's stories are carefully chiseled, and the prose is sometimes stiff, but Coffey will occasionally cut loose, as in the closing “Finishing Ulysses,” which follows a professor eager to teach Joyce’s classic who’s out on the town in Philadelphia. Though short, the story has an appealingly jazzy, impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness rhythm. (“Smokes you need and why not the bennies. Some jump. Setting sun crashing into the façade of the church over there.”) Most of these stories capture men in decline, but one of the collection’s best is more tender: In “The Newman Boys,” the narrator recalls his brief childhood acquaintance with a neighbor boy diagnosed with hydrocephaly; the story captures the narrator’s narcissism, fears, confusions about adulthood—and, in its closing pages, a sense of how small kindnesses can resonate across decades.

Sober and smart writing that evokes the more mannered American stylists of the 1960s and '70s.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-934137-86-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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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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