A savvy if somewhat dense tale of good intentions gone awry.

THE HALF-LIFE OF SNAILS

A woman’s 2014 research trip to Chernobyl has unintended consequences.

Holloway’s debut novel centers on Helen, a single mom whose home in Wales is under threat by the planned construction of a new nuclear power plant to replace an old one. She fears the loss of not just her home, but her rural way of life, which she’s trying to pass down to her 5-year-old son, Jack. (The snails of the title refer to a pair Jack keeps as pets.) Her sister, Jennifer, works at the current plant and is more ambivalent about the land buyouts, though she’s under threat of losing her home as well. To better make the case for nuclear power’s dangers, Helen heads to Ukraine to join a tourist group visiting the catastrophically failed Soviet-era plant there. Soon enough, complications escalate. Helen is separated from the group and then injured without means to send word back home. Jack, staying with Jennifer and her husband, begins acting oddly. And Russia annexes Crimea, setting roadblocks in Helen’s path out of the country. Holloway’s descriptions of the Welsh landscape and the isolation zone around Chernobyl are richly detailed, starkly contrasting lushness and degradation. And she’s meticulous in describing Helen’s relationships with her family and her acquaintances on the tour. All that consideration gives the narrative a certain stodginess that feels ungainly in the latter chapters, which should be more propulsive storytelling about peril and escape. (Subplots involving the sisters’ ailing mother and a highly symbolic orphaned lamb add some additional drag.) But the details persuasively explain Helen's concerns, and Holloway is expert at capturing the fear, verging on paranoia, generated by them.

A savvy if somewhat dense tale of good intentions gone awry.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-913640-57-6

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Parthian Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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IT STARTS WITH US

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 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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