If McInerney fans search hard enough, they’ll find a faint heartwarming message somewhere in the midst of this ho-hum plot.

LOLA'S SECRET

Life can be both good and bad, and you’re guaranteed heaps of both in McInerney’s follow-up to The Alphabet Sisters (2004).

Just ask great-grandmother Lola, the crusty doyen of the Quinlan family. The octogenarian has encouraged the entire family to take separate vacations during the Christmas holiday while she stays at the family-owned Australian Valley View Motel and holds down the fort. Of course, her family believes that Lola’s just looking forward to some much-needed rest since the motel doesn’t have any bookings while they’re gone. But wily old Lola, who’s become somewhat of an expert using the Internet, has other plans. She’s actually booked free rooms for a handful of people who have some very messy personal problems. Not that Lola’s aware that these people have problems, and not that their problems are really very central to the overall plot, since each problem is resolved before any of the potential guests show up at the motel. So, if Lola doesn’t have to deal with all the guests and their problems—after they happily resolve their issues, they cancel their reservations—what does she have to worry about? For one, Lola’s son wants to sell the motel and pursue different interests, and that kind of throws Lola’s future into disarray. Plus, Lola’s 12-year-old great-granddaughter is acting like a brat because her father is dating again five years after the death of her mother, and Lola’s surviving adult granddaughters, Bett and Carrie, are also acting pretty bratty and arguing like, well, like sisters. Then there’s the pushy volunteer at the local charity store where Lola spends a great deal of her time. She insists that they decorate the display window for the annual Christmas competition using her design. Lola, of course, applies the wisdom of her advanced years to straightening out every situation, while briefly reconnecting to her past and resolving her own future.

If McInerney fans search hard enough, they’ll find a faint heartwarming message somewhere in the midst of this ho-hum plot.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-53403-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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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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