For all his careful construction, Stein’s novel never quite takes off.

IN THE AGE OF LOVE

Stein (This Room Is Yours, 2004, etc.) examines the chance reunion of two former lovers in his brief fifth novel.

It’s been 12 years since the passionate year-long affair between Jonathan Parrish and Lily Mayeux. They had grown up as neighbors in rural Connecticut; on one return visit, the 30-year-old Jonathan realized Lily, eight years younger, had become a beautiful young woman. They quickly became lovers, Lily moving in with him in New York. Jonathan was working for the UN as an educator, flying into war zones around the world and helping local children recover. Their crisis came when Lily’s sister died suddenly. Jonathan was in Nicaragua. Lily cabled him to return for the funeral; he waited three weeks. By then, Lily’s heart had hardened, and she ended the relationship. Now it’s 1984, and 43-year-old Jonathan is driving to New Orleans for an educational conference at which he’s a featured speaker; he lives in Vermont, where he’s a university teacher while still undertaking assignments for UNESCO. Lily, now herself a teacher, will be flying in from Maine; she has a husband, an okay marriage and a four-year-old son. Jonathan has stayed single; he’s had two serious affairs, but Lily remains the love of his life. Not much happens in New Orleans. They meet for lunch and two dinners in Jonathan’s suite. Stein switches back and forth between Jonathan’s and Lily’s viewpoints, making this a he-thinks/she-thinks tale, in which the influence of the past on the present is all-important. The construction is arid; more dialogue would have been welcome. Their mutual attraction is still intense, though finding expression only in one kiss. Will this be an American Brief Encounter? Or will Lily leave her husband “to take the side of daring and madness”? Stein proves, disappointingly, to be as ambivalent as his characters, tacking on a makeshift ending.

For all his careful construction, Stein’s novel never quite takes off.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-57962-150-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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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 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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THE PRINCE OF TIDES

A NOVEL

A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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