Fresh turf for American fiction from a talented young writer.

THE CRADLE

In this first novel by the author of the story collection Trouble (2006), a young man and, separately, a middle-aged woman test their capacity to love and be loved.

As a favor to his pregnant wife, Matt takes a few days off from the plant where he works to try to find the cradle Marissa had as a baby. She wants it for their son. The cradle dates back to the Civil War, and it was stolen when Marissa was 15, around the same time Marissa’s mother walked out. Neither has been seen since. With a relative’s former address as his only clue, Matt sets off, traveling through towns large and small, from Green Bay, Wis., to Walton, Minn., to Rensselaer, Ind., with a brief detour (via Internet video hook-up) to Antarctica. Along the way, Matt finds much more than he anticipated, including how his own childhood—18 years of foster homes and state agencies—shaped his feelings about family. Ten years later, in a well-heeled neighborhood of Chicago, Renee and her husband Bill prepare to say goodbye to their only son Adam, a Marine who is leaving for Iraq in a matter of days. Affable and bright, Adam believes he has a duty to serve his country—a position not shared by Renee, a children’s-book author turned poet who passionately protested the Vietnam War when she was in college. As the family works to keep their last days together normal—they go out for donuts; watch a football game on television—Renee’s feelings about Adam’s impending departure threaten to tear from her lips a long-buried secret. One not even her husband knows. Somerville’s two story lines unfold and ultimately dovetail with a quiet confidence. This meditative novel dignifies small gestures, which bring to life the compelling characters. A bonus is the fresh regional sensibility the author brings to Matt’s road trip through the Northern Middle West states.

Fresh turf for American fiction from a talented young writer.

Pub Date: March 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-03612-2

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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