THE BLADE BETWEEN

An unsettling and visceral journey: powerful, twisted, and grim but ultimately uplifting.

Supernatural and uncomfortably human forces threaten to rip a failing town apart.

In the 19th century, Hudson, New York, was a bustling port and whaling town. The blood of the slaughtered whales soaked into the earth, and their powerful spiritual presence permeated the area. Twenty-first century Hudson is poised between decay and a gentrified rebirth thanks to newly arrived billionaire Jark Trowse and a coterie of investors turning local mom-and-pop shops and familiar but dingy diners into upscale antique stores and boutique eateries. The town is divided between those who welcome the new people and their money and those who are losing everything they love to the invasion. As Jark embarks on what will likely be a victorious mayoral campaign, whale and human ghosts lure Ronan Szepessy, a successful New York City photographer and recovering drug addict, back to the hometown that brutally rejected him for being gay and showed little sympathy when his mother committed suicide. Ronan is disgusted by the changes he sees in Hudson and despairs at the state of his father, a butcher whose shop failed and who is now declining into dementia. He embarks on a volatile plan with Attalah, a high school friend, to confound the gentrifiers even while he carries on a secret affair with her husband, Dom, a cop who is never quite accepted by the rest of the force because he’s Black. The town ghosts have granted Ronan powers that lend his efforts a supernatural heft, but Ronan’s complex feelings about his past and the people of Hudson also rouse darker forces that tip the town toward violence and chaos. It’s amazing how several of the same motifs that appeared in Miller’s cli-fi novel Blackfish City (2018)—whales, the abyss between the rich and poor, the struggle for housing, and a mysterious broadcast which brings hope—appear in this novel but in entirely fresh and equally effective shapes. The story is also strongly informed by Miller’s own history as a gay man brought up in Hudson, the son of a butcher who lost his shop to a big-box store.

An unsettling and visceral journey: powerful, twisted, and grim but ultimately uplifting.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296982-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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