While not perfectly constructed, these stories turn out to be curious, diverse, and enjoyable.

Decision at Camp Ross Trails, and Other Stories

A debut collection offers six wide-ranging short stories on relationships among family, friends, colleagues, and species.

This book covers a vast terrain, exploring numerous styles, settings, and voices. It opens with the very brief “Keeping Busy,” in which Julie, on a smoke break at work, ponders a recent fire that consumed a trailer and man, possibly her co-worker’s brother. She figures the fire started with a cigarette, possibly hers. Julie, her town, and her job all pique interest, but the two-page story is too spare to ground readers or build empathy. “Game Day,” though much longer, has a similar sketchy feel. The story is told by a preschooler, Tommy, who lives with his mother near a large stadium. Tommy is precocious enough to ponder kindergarten and nap simply to improve his mother’s mood, yet seems utterly stymied by the marching band’s instruments at the stadium: “shiny gold funnel shapes” and a “big tummy thing.” A child’s viewpoint is indeed difficult and MacLaurin succeeds in portraying Tommy’s innocence and budding complicity, but the insight isn’t deep enough to create well-rounded characters or necessary tension. “The Greeting” attempts an even more challenging point of view: a dragonfly hoping to welcome two humans, or “Otherkind,” at a lakeshore. While initially confusing, the story shows potential, perhaps as environmental sci-fi. The author hits a stronger stride in “Decision at Camp Ross Trails,” about an eerie Girl Scout camp, and particularly in “Dinner at the Anatevka Grill,” in which a woman shares traditional Russian cuisine and tales of her past with her food critic husband. These characters possess a greater dimension, with their motivations and wants palpable, making the stories believable. “Anatevka Grill” rings true with rich sensory and historical details. The most entertaining story is “Odyssey, with Swine,” the last in the collection. Readers know at the outset where this is headed: a pig will be slaughtered. But they also sense there will be conflict. The narrator’s ensuing “odyssey” aptly pulls the plot—and the pig—toward an inevitable end.

While not perfectly constructed, these stories turn out to be curious, diverse, and enjoyable.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 74

Publisher: QuillerWorks Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2016

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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