Shades of Homer Hickham and Pat Conroy appear in this surprising debut from a dad who inspired a Twitter frenzy.

A FAR PIECE TO CANAAN

Country roads lead a grieving grandfather a long way home in this emotional rural gothic by, of all people, one of Twitter’s most popular celebrities.

Debut author Halpern, a retired professor of nuclear medicine, is best known as the humorous crank who inspired son Justin’s infamous twitter feed “Shit My Dad Says,” a book of the same name and a short-lived CBS sitcom. Halpern’s first novel is an affectionate, sometimes frightening and eerily effective drama about coming of age in bluegrass country. Halpern’s protagonist is Samuel Zelinsky, a retired Jewish professor who is in mourning after the death of his wife. At her request, Samuel returns home to face the ghosts of his past. Most of the book is a flashback to Samuel’s childhood with best friend Fred Mulligan and assorted other denizens of this backwoods village. In a long, sometimes elegant story that includes murderous hillbillies, mysterious pools, broken promises and terrible trespasses, Halpern captures life in the postwar South. Sam gains a protector in Ben Begley, a local who saves him from his own stupidity. The elder Samuel often reflects on how these events changed him. “There was something special in Ben and Dad’s way of preparing me to be a man,” he says. “I developed a sense of self that prevailed throughout my life. In some of my darkest moments, their views, taught so long ago, allowed me to persevere, to think my own thoughts and stick to them until I was proven wrong.” The novel captures a unique time, as characters speak in perplexing native vernacular, children carry shotguns, and sins can be washed away by mumbling, “Just foolin’.” A superfluous coda in which Samuel reconnects with an old friend is poignant nonetheless.

Shades of Homer Hickham and Pat Conroy appear in this surprising debut from a dad who inspired a Twitter frenzy.

Pub Date: May 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-223316-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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