FOUR MINUTES

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

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 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 121


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 121


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Close Quickview