An engaging summer read, full of wit, charm, and drama.

SUMMER ON DUNE ROAD

In Cullen’s novel, three women summering in the Hamptons find their idyllic vacations to be more complicated than they’d bargained for.

In chapters told from alternating perspectives, readers come to know Megan and Courtney, two recent college graduates fleeing the fallout from their respective romantic relationships, and Nora, a newly divorced, self-made millionaire who’s reeling from the recent sale of her company. The three start off as strangers and are slowly drawn into one another’s orbits, making an unlikely but amiable trio. For much of the novel, the details of the relationships that drove Megan to accept an invitation from her former stepmother to stay in her Westhampton Beach guesthouse, and Courtney to stay with college acquaintance Alyssa, are unclear, but this mystery creates a deliciously intriguing atmosphere against the posh backdrop. Courtney finds herself increasingly alienated from Alyssa and her posse; unlike the artsy, subdued young woman she knew at school, Alyssa now cares only for partying and drugs (“I’m increasingly aware that ‘Summer Alyssa’ isn’t quite who I bargained for”). Then, Alyssa’s true focus on Courtney’s ex-boyfriend become clear. Soon enough, both Megan’s and Courtney’s relationships catch up with them, resulting in a loosely strung love triangle, malicious lies, and miscommunications. Nora’s chapters, while less immediately gripping, slowly reveal a heartwarming story as she fumbles to repair the friendships she’s neglected, strike up a relationship via a matchmaking service, and connect with her summer housemate. Cullen, the author of The Last Summer Sister (2021) enlivens a classic beach-read plot with a quick wit, a knack for drawing complicated family relationships, and contemporary flair. Each of the three main characters is fully drawn and warm; despite their flaws, readers will root for them. Alyssa is a compelling antagonist, but one wishes for more scenes with her. Supporting players are less well defined, though; bartender Tucker disappears halfway through the novel, and boyfriends exist only peripherally. However, the book’s representation of neurodivergent characters and queer relationships is well crafted and refreshing.

An engaging summer read, full of wit, charm, and drama.

Pub Date: March 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-578-28058-5

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Lime Street Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2022

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

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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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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