SALVAGE THIS WORLD

An exceptional storyteller in top form.

A theft and a deadly chase darken the lives of a young family.

“The Gulf Coast region had begun to take on a hurricane every few months. There was no longer an off season.” In a region blighted by foul weather, a man named Holt hooks up with the revivalist Temple of Pain and Glory until he goes sour on the money-grubbing hellfire homilies purveyed by its leader, Elser. He steals from her a pair of black keys and ignites a relentless manhunt that also targets Jessie, the young woman whom Holt met during his fugitive years, and their son. When Holt abandons her, leaving the keys, Jessie turns to her estranged father. The keys may be connected to a mystical child Elser cites in her sermons “who has the ability to control the weather” and to some Southern-gothic place called the Bottom. Smith’s last outing, Nick (2021), was an audacious prequel to The Great Gatsby with a harrowing section in New Orleans. But five of his six novels are closely related in themes, blue-collar cast, and settings in Louisiana and Mississippi. This new work suggests a prequel to his first novel, Rivers (2013), a tale of greed and desperation set in a Gulf Coast region so storm-ravaged that Washington calls for permanent evacuation. In Blackwood (2020), Smith revisited characters from The Fighter (2018). Maybe he’s building his own Faulkner-esque universe around his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. So far it looks to be a grim corpus in which bad luck and bad choices—and the exceptionally foul weather of Rivers and this book—erode lives to a raw minimum. Yet Smith’s tense, brooding narratives also reveal a terrible beauty in his characters’ struggles to flee or defeat the cruelty and violence they face, to find moments in which hope and love are more than memories.

An exceptional storyteller in top form.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780316413633

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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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