This novel’s stakes can sometimes feel too modest, but its empathy and lived-in qualities are both appealing.

THE NARCISSISM OF SMALL DIFFERENCES

A Detroit couple faces personal and professional challenges.

The latest novel by Zadoorian (Beautiful Music, 2018, etc.) explores the lives of two people questioning the relationship they’ve been in for the last 15 years. It's 2009; Ana Urbanek and Joe Keen live a comfortable life in Detroit. Ana works in advertising, where she makes a good living. Joe is a freelance writer, and his income is far more variable and intermittent. While the economic disparity between their professions leads to some tension within the relationship, it’s minor. Though they’ve been together for a while, neither Joe nor Ana has an interest in having children, and even marriage is something that seems overly formal. As both turn 40, however, the occasion makes them question their choices in life. Ana gets a promotion at work while Joe takes a day job; each of those offers its own challenges to their senses of self and to the relationship they’ve nurtured for so long. These themes are accentuated by the choice of setting, both in terms of the city and in terms of the year. Detroit in 2009 is depicted as a place whose glory days are behind it and whose future is uncertain. Ana and Joe are neither fortune-seeking gentrifiers nor grizzled veterans, and their need to find a specific place where they belong makes for some of this novel’s most affecting moments. The parallel narratives don’t quite line up, as Ana’s challenges, including doing work for an organization she feels ideologically opposed to and grappling with a potential workplace romance, feel several echelons higher than Joe’s. But overall, Zadoorian concisely evokes his protagonists’ struggles.

This novel’s stakes can sometimes feel too modest, but its empathy and lived-in qualities are both appealing.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61775-818-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more