Part page-turner and part aesthetic treatise, Rock’s (Spells, 2017, etc.) latest is, like the currents of the Great Lakes,...

THE NIGHT SWIMMERS

“Part of my pleasure of swimming in open water, especially at night, is that it makes me afraid.”

In the summer of 1994, our unnamed narrator, a 26-year-old aspiring writer, meets Mrs. Abel, the mysterious young widow with whom he voyages by night through the swells and currents of Lake Michigan. To the narrator, and to the summer community on Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, Mrs. Abel is an enigma: She’d been married to Mr. Abel, whose name she wears like a keepsake throughout the novel, for less than a month before his death, and the cabin that she’s inherited is so sparsely decorated that everything in it—her husband’s now-scentless clothes, a wooden bird carved by a friend, a painting by Charles E. Burchfield of a forest fire marching toward a cabin—seems to possess, in the narrator’s eyes, the significance of an artifact, of objects kept because they serve as mementos of missing people or missing times. By swimming together at night, Mrs. Abel and the narrator build a secret relationship out of their shared passion—but the relationship ends prematurely when one night near summer’s close the swimmers arrive upon a strange shoal far from shore and, while exploring it, Mrs. Abel somehow disappears. Twenty-ish years later, the narrator—now a successful novelist who lives with his wife and two daughters in Oregon—is reconstructing that summer, trying to get closer to who he was, and who Mrs. Abel was, and what happened that night on the water. To do so, he pours over the artifacts left behind by that time—photographs and artworks frequent the text, as do letters to and from his ex-girlfriend. He floats in a sensory deprivation tank, studying “the past, the future, [and] the hypothetical…hidden beneath the surface” of his thoughts. He consults Rilke, Burchfield, and Chekhov, among many others. And, most significantly, he writes—thus creating out of life’s artifacts a new artifact, this book, which serves as keepsake for both Mrs. Abel and the narrator’s youth, referring eyes back upon them across the years.

Part page-turner and part aesthetic treatise, Rock’s (Spells, 2017, etc.) latest is, like the currents of the Great Lakes, subtle and haunted, deeply complex and “quietly…sinister”; his readers, like his swimmers, ought to know “that the currents of the subsurface are likely to be moving.”

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64129-000-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

WINTER GARDEN

A Russian refugee’s terrible secret overshadows her family life.

Meredith, heir apparent to her family’s thriving Washington State apple enterprises, and Nina, a globetrotting photojournalist, grew up feeling marginalized by their mother. Anya saw her daughters as merely incidental to her grateful love for their father Evan, who rescued her from a German prison camp. The girls know neither their mother’s true age, nor the answers to several other mysteries: her color-blindness, her habit of hoarding food despite the family’s prosperity and the significance of her “winter garden” with its odd Cyrillic-inscribed columns. The only thawing in Anya’s mien occurs when she relates a fairy tale about a peasant girl who meets a prince and their struggles to live happily ever after during the reign of a tyrannical Black Knight. After Evan dies, the family comes unraveled: Anya shows signs of dementia; Nina and Meredith feud over whether to move Mom from her beloved dacha-style home, named Belye Nochi after the summer “white nights” of her native Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Anya, now elderly but of preternaturally youthful appearance—her white hair has been that way as long as the girls can remember—keeps babbling about leather belts boiled for soup, furniture broken up for firewood and other oddities. Prompted by her daughters’ snooping and a few vodka-driven dinners, she grudgingly divulges her story. She is not Anya, but Vera, sole survivor of a Russian family; her father, grandmother, mother, sister, husband and two children were all lost either to Stalin’s terror or during the German army’s siege of Leningrad. Anya’s chronicle of the 900-day siege, during which more than half a million civilians perished from hunger and cold, imparts new gravitas to the novel, easily overwhelming her daughters’ more conventional “issues.” The effect, however, is all but vitiated by a manipulative and contrived ending.

Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-36412-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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