MEN IN MY SITUATION

A melancholy read despite a glimmer of hope toward the end.

A Norwegian writer finds himself struggling to get his life together after the double whammy of his parents' and brothers' deaths in a tragic ship fire and the end of his 15-year marriage a year later.

Arvid Jansen is a recurring character and something of an alter ego in Pettersen’s fiction. The author's parents and brother died in an actual ferry disaster in 1990; his novel In The Wake (2002) concentrates on Arvid’s relationship with his father and his guilt and grief surrounding the deaths. In the newer novel, the focus is largely on the aftermath of Arvid’s divorce from his wife, Turid, and his longing for his three young daughters, whom he now rarely sees for reasons that may be of his own making. Arvid is 43 in In The Wake, and the final section of the new novel finds him at the same age, but for most of the (in)action, which takes place over the course of one Sunday a year after Turid and the girls left, he's looking back at himself at 38. (The missing years between 38 and 43 might be another novel.) Turid calls him early that morning. Stranded and desperate, she asks for his help getting home because “I have no one else,” a statement he disbelieves. Whether his marriage’s failure was his fault remains unclear, but while dutifully helping Turid get home, and later picking up his daughters—left with a babysitter he doesn’t trust—Arvid stews over his life, reexperiencing nonchronological bits and pieces of aimlessness and missed connections. Though he's published three books and received a grant to write his big factory novel, he currently spends most of his time picking up women at bars or roaming the countryside alone in his beloved Mazda, psychologically adrift; American readers may have more trouble following the physical geography of Norway he covers exhaustively than the depressed, self-absorbed, but beautifully articulated meanderings of his mind.

A melancholy read despite a glimmer of hope toward the end.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64445-075-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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