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WAHALA

A fascinating look at the dark side of female friendship.

Three women unwittingly welcome a sinister presence into their friendship, wreaking havoc on their lives.

Ronke, Boo, and Simi have been friends for 17 years, since they met at university in Bristol. All mixed-raced Nigerian British women, they bonded over their shared identities. But now, at 35, though they remain constant presences in each other's lives, they're on very different paths: Ronke is a successful dentist, but she can’t get her flaky boyfriend, Kayode, to commit; Boo is married to mild-mannered Didier, with whom she shares precocious 5-year-old Sofia, but she feels trapped by their domestic routine; Simi is happily married to her husband, Martin, but she struggles with impostor syndrome at work and with Martin’s desire to have a child she’s not sure she’ll ever be ready for. Then Isobel enters their lives. When Simi’s childhood friend suddenly reappears, she ingratiates herself with the group. Flashy and wealthy, at first Isobel seems to offer excitement and encouragement to each of the women in turn. But when the foundations of the three friends’ lives grow more unsteady, her presence lurks in the cracks. The author builds a propulsive reading experience as she slowly reveals Isobel’s manipulations while keeping the reasons behind them hidden. Compelling character studies of each of the women don’t shy away from the jealousies and judgments that sometimes make the line between friend and enemy razor thin. But once the climax is reached, it’s clear that not all the narrative pieces fit together. Dropped threads (Ronke deals with a stalker who has no bearing on the overall plot; discussions of colorism and internalized racism are never fully explored) and missed opportunities (Isobel is written as a caricature of destruction, with no voice of her own) keep the book from greatness.

A fascinating look at the dark side of female friendship.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308424-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

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

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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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