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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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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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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