A strong debut that uses gauzy impression to explore the harsh realities of post-communist Eastern Europe.

FOUR MINUTES

Abandoned as a child, Leah navigates a world of invisible outcasts.

Leah was born during the difficult post-communist transition period in Bulgaria. Her parents are unknown, and her earliest memories of the care home in which she is raised are of neglect, abuse, and her persistent desire to become invisible and thus escape the chaos of her surroundings. Repeatedly passed over for adoption, Leah eventually ages out of the system. She and Naya, her friend and lover, are turned out of the orphanage at 18 with no support system and few prospects other than homelessness or prostitution. Leah and Naya stick together and are able to afford a shared room where they become a family for each other in spite of the shared trauma of their past and the persecution they face as a same-sex couple. One day, however, Naya leaves without explanation and Leah is abandoned once again. She responds to this persistent feeling of invisibility—which reoccurs throughout the novel as both a symbol of protection and as the curse of a callous system all too ready to overlook what it does not want to see—by volunteering and then working with special needs children. In the course of this work she meets Dara, a child who has survived tremendous trauma, and finds in the girl a way to “patch up her childhood,” if only the authorities can see past their prejudice and declare her a mother. Leah’s story is told in episodic snatches of thought and memory which are interrupted by nine stand-alone stories of marginalized people—Salim, the Roma boy maimed by his mother to make him a better thief; Suki, a runaway from a coastal Bulgarian city trafficked into sex work in Amsterdam; Aksinia Levina, a former ballerina aging alone as the neighborhood cat lady, and more. While these interspersed narratives sometimes veer into the territory of trope, the novel as a whole succeeds in making visible both the dignity and the intimate familiarity of lives lived on the fringes of a society that would much rather pretend they do not exist.

A strong debut that uses gauzy impression to explore the harsh realities of post-communist Eastern Europe.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948830-37-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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