THE HIGH SHELF

Memorable and moving, these pared-down poems have a compelling tensile strength.

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With precise grace, this poetry collection examines cycles of destruction and growth.

In her debut collection, Colburn offers poems (many previously published in literary journals) that tend to inhabit either pole of the natural/artificial divide. The process of becoming is one manifestation of the first pole, as in “Plenitude/Pregnancy,” a nine-part poem—like the nine months of gestation—in which the speaker is expecting in both senses of the word. Her hopes for the future are thrown by recognition of life’s vulnerability. Similar poems bring the poet’s attention to living things and the threats they face. People starve; species go extinct; “Yes, certainly we will destroy ourselves,” she concludes in “The Natural World.” The opposite pole is often represented by the notion of boxes, essentially unnatural spaces that offer safety but captivity. Yet they also offer “the idea of escape itself,” as in Mark Rothko’s painted rectangles, which take the viewer “Inside and inside.” Similarly, natural or creative sterility contains the space for returning vigor: “And when the words came: O Land of the very-seen: / alive and green.” In other poems, Colburn searches for ways to bring her opposites together. In “Explanation of the World,” whose second line gives the collection its title, a high shelf holds “boxes, spaced: just   so,” yet above, below, and beyond is the uncontainable—“firmaments” and “the sound of the sea.” The concluding poems continue to explore the resolution of division by joyfully confirming the power of what is. In “Time Box,” for example, the opening line—“Certainly, the immortal soul”—suggests a counter to the speaker’s earlier certainty of self-destruction. Spare, elegant, and perceptive, these poems are charged with the numinous, a haikulike attention to essence. Some pieces recall Hopkins’ notion of inscape: “The world in-latched. Of-itself made.” Colburn’s lines often hesitate, stopping themselves with a dash, colon, or spaces (“So many, so many, each one: // one:   numberless:”), a powerful silence similar to rests in music or white space in a painting.

Memorable and moving, these pared-down poems have a compelling tensile strength. (Poetry, 12+)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944585-36-5

Page Count: 90

Publisher: The Word Works

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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