A compassionate and unsentimental look at one confused young man's path through loss.


A widowed father's recovery from grief forms the framework of Fromm's touching novel.

Young carpenter and cabinetmaker Taz and his wife, Marnie, are just scraping by financially as they attempt to rehab the dilapidated house they share in rural Montana and eagerly await the birth of their first child. And then Marnie dies in childbirth. Taz, dazed by sorrow, is left to raise baby Midge without Marnie, though frequently conjuring her ghost for conversation. His parents are no help: They've moved to New Zealand, and Taz and his father don't get along. But Taz doesn't have to raise his daughter alone. He has a cohort of caring friends and neighbors, and he gradually forms a friendship with Marnie's mother, Lauren, who flies in as often as possible to spend time with her granddaughter. Most significant is his growing relationship with the college student and part-time bartender, nicknamed “Elmo” for the resemblance of her hair to that of the Muppet, who babysits Midge. The novel leapfrogs through the first year and a half of Midge's life, landing occasionally on significant days like Christmas, Halloween, and Midge's birthday but more often exploring the texture of seemingly ordinary days as an uncertain Taz veers between despair and hope. Though readers may be appalled by how often Taz exposes Midge to the dangers of his workplaces or the mountain lakes where he takes her swimming before she can even crawl, Fromm (The Names of the Stars, 2016, etc.) eschews suspense in favor of a close study of the messy process of rebuilding a life. He pays loving attention to the details of Taz's work and to the place that is as vital to him as any human being.

A compassionate and unsentimental look at one confused young man's path through loss.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64009-177-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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


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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