THE CURATOR

Dickens novel meets Hieronymus Bosch painting—dark, chaotic fun.

Sprawling, densely populated, intricately plotted, King's new novel is the kind of book that practically begs to be called Dickensian—and the rare one that mostly earns the moniker.

Dora, who came of age at an orphanage amid squalor and cruelty after her beloved brother and then her less-beloved parents succumbed to cholera, has until recently been a domestic servant at the National University. The violent unrest that's convulsed the unnamed city has made her a refugee again, but this time she has a patron, an idealistic blueblood named Robert Barnes who's now a rebel officer. In a quest to find and reconnect with her dead brother, Dora gets Robert, her beau, to finagle a place for her—via a wartime field promotion to Curator—at the Society for Psykical Research, the occult institute where her brother worked before he died. Alas, it has burned to rubble, and so (a neat scratch-out on her appointment document does the trick) she settles for curating the bizarre, decrepit, automaton-filled National Museum of the Worker next door. As the city's beloved/despised cats and its factions of revolutionaries wrangle over the city, ordinary citizens suffer. Before long, a mystical Morgue Ship filled with souls mistreated during their lives is seen plying the city's waterways, even its paintings of waterways, and Dora begins to uncover ever deeper and more sinister conspiracies. The book can seem overstuffed at times—the wheels within wheels have wheels that occasionally get tangled in their wheels—but for the most part King carries it off successfully, with vivid prose, excellent minor characters, and a scrappy, every-which-way inventiveness. Best of all is the resistance he musters to sentimentality—this is a Dickensian (im)moral universe, yes, but if the arc of history bends toward justice, it's going to have to be because a working person wrenched and hammered it in that direction. Ever so slightly.

Dickens novel meets Hieronymus Bosch painting—dark, chaotic fun.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781982196806

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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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