A LIFE FOR A LIFE AND OTHER STORIES

A selection of profound stories teeming with a host of relatable individuals.

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Everyday life is a journey for the characters in Drago’s short-story collection.

In “The Pit,” an unnamed narrator details their blue-collar job at the Basic Oxygen Lance Furnace. The “unbearable” heat that comes with slagging steel, coupled with inherent dangers (including a task that only a 300-pound man can do), give the impression that this workplace is the very pit of Hell. The casts in these eight tales lead ostensibly quiet lives that harbor turmoil: “Mountain Stone” finds Ginger Dressinger hoping to reconnect with the Rocky Mountains she visited years ago with her family. But this simple endeavor proves nearly impossible, as no resort has a vacancy, leaving her to spend a rainy day burdened by resentments she struggles to let go. Likewise, structural engineer Andy has a new job lined up in the closing story, “Equilibrium,” when his co-worker, Clinton Hanley, having just won the Irish Sweepstakes, offers to hire him. Clinton’s plan is to build a small city in Arizona with an unusual design that may be too much for Andy to handle. Many of the characters herein seemingly feel out of place; that’s certainly true for the narrator in “Salmon,” who happily joins potential romantic interest Miriam on a train ride from Canada to California. Ensconced six cars behind Miriam’s sleeper car, he soon gets the miserable sense that he’s merely “third class” compared to the woman he’s pursuing. He’s just one of a handful of sympathetic souls Drago introduces, including a mother with terminal cancer, a janitor who has livelier conversations with plants than people, and a vegetable/marijuana farmer who realizes that clearing others off his land may not be what he really wants. The author’s unadorned yet insightful prose sparkles: “They were green eyes and detailed sharply with intelligence and a fatal ingredient, fatal to me, and this element was humor.”

A selection of profound stories teeming with a host of relatable individuals.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2023

ISBN: 9798888550069

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Chestnut Hill Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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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